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The Arts

Honoring a literary pioneer

Unveiling of historic marker to celebrate acclaimed local author Mary E. Wilkins Freeman will kick off 2019 Brattleboro Literary Festival

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BRATTLEBORO—On Thursday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m., the West Brattleboro Association, in conjunction with the Brattleboro Words Project and Brattleboro Literary Festival, will unveil a state Historic Marker commemorating acclaimed local author Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and four historic schools that stood near the current site of today’s Academy School.

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman was repeatedly voted the most popular female author during the 19th century. Best known for her short stories, she published over 250 in her lifetime. Freeman spent a significant part of her life in Brattleboro, and credited Brattleboro for its influence on her writing and success.

During her time here, Mary attended the Glenwood Ladies Seminary, one of the four schools being commemorated with the historic marker.

One side of the historic marker will be dedicated to the schools, and one side dedicated to Freeman.

“We were planning a marker for the schools and were pleased to learn about Mary Wilkins Freeman’s connection,” Michael Bosworth of the West Brattleboro Association said in a news release.

“It is great to bring students and the public to recognize this important history. The Glenwood Ladies Seminary may have been the most interesting of the four schools. It was a 19th century example of a private secondary boarding school for females, and in 1860 its first class had 128 students from nine states, plus Constantinople.”

The other schools included are Brattleborough Academy, Glenwood Classical Seminary and the old Academy School (torn down in 1957). The organizers are grateful to the State of Vermont for approving and funding this historic marker and to Brattleboro’s Department of Public Works for installing it.

The ceremony will kick off the 2019 Brattleboro Literary Festival. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman is one of the writers with a history in Brattleboro being celebrated at this year's festival, along with Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book while living in Dummerston.

Brent Kendrick, a scholar on Freeman’s life and works, will give a brief address. Local alumni of the old Academy School will also share a few words on their experiences there and their family connections to the other schools at the site.

The Brattleboro Literary Festival will continue that evening at 7 p.m. at Brooks Memorial Library with talks by Brent Kendrick, author of Infant Sphinx: The Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Christopher Benfey, author of If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #531 (Wednesday, October 9, 2019). This story appeared on page B3.

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