Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own. Edited by Sylvia Ann Grider and
Lou Halsell Rodenberger. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press,
1997. Pp. xvi+461. Preface, introduction, bibliography, contributors, index.
ISBN o-89096-752-0. $39.95, cloth; paperback available).
This book, edited by Sylvia Ann Grider and Lou Halsell Rodenberger, traces
the development of the women's literary tradition in Texas. That tradition has
been generally ignored, they submit, because of the dominance of J. Frank
Dobie, whose followers have "raised to sacred status such icons as the cowboy,
the oil derrick, and the Alamo" (p. xii). Even so, women writers over the years
have produced a body of work that represents a separate and distinct tradition
from that of their male counterparts.
The book is broad in scope, spanning a period of more than 150 years and
including women who are Texas-connected, though not necessarily native born
or residents. The book also includes a wide variety of literature. One section is
devoted to prose, another to Tejana and African-American writers, and still oth-
ers to poetry and drama. Within each grouping, essays written by an array of
scholars carry forward the thesis of the book. Arranged chronologically, the
essays vary in style and content, but usually include biographical sketches of
selected writers, summaries of their major works, and a critical evaluation.
Prose receives the most attention, occupying roughly one-third of the book
and considering genres such as novels, short stories, journalism, memoirs, cre-
ative nonfiction, and children's books. Fane Downs covers nonfiction before
1920o, and Carole Wolf, the fiction of the period. For the later years, the essayists
focus on individual women, with the subjects ranging from Mabel Major, a
favorite teacher who did not profess to be a writer, to Katherine Anne Porter,
whom Janis P. Stout suggests may reasonably be called Texas's greatest writer,
with no reference to gender.
In a final collection of essays, five women connected with writing or publish-
ing in the state glance at the past and look toward the future of women writers
in Texas. Of these essays, historians will probably find the concluding one by
Nancy Baker Jones the most provocative. Seeking a common ground between
fiction and history, she finds similar elements in them. Both deal with characters
and events within a chronological framework and both tell stories.
Historians will also appreciate the extensive bibliography. Actually, there are
two bibliographies. One gives the sources pertinent to the text. The other lists
women writers, many of whom do not appear elsewhere in the book, along with
their most important works. Although the editors make a qualifying statement
about the comprehensiveness of the bibliography, it is impressive.
This is an important book in both concept and execution. It contains a wealth
of information, and reveals the depth and breadth of the women's literary tradi-
tion. For years it will stand as the ready reference to women writers in Texas and
as the starting point for those interested in further work in the field.
Marilyn McAdams Sibley
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed May 6, 2015.