As a child, I had some odd reading habits. Basically, if the book was in our house, I read it. We had children's books, sure, but my younger brothers and sisters were likely to nab those first. Since I got antsy without a book in my hands, I often read books I found on my parents' shelves. Several of those were by Indiana author Gene Stratton-Porter.






I read FRECKLES and A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST when I was eight or nine years old, and I went on to read many other books by this author. I couldn't put them down. They were beautifully written, but frightening, too - one scene in FRECKLES, I recall, gave me nightmares for weeks.


But the stories stayed with me, and looking back, I wonder if my early reading of those books forged my future attitudes towards trees, forests and the world around me. I suspect I absorbed a lot more from Gene Stratton-Porter's books than I ever realized.


A Girl of the Limberlost



The author intrigued me because she was from neighboring Indiana (I grew up in the Chicago suburbs). When I got hooked on genealogy as an adult, I discovered I'd had ancestors who lived in the same area where Stratton-Porter lived as a young bride -- Decatur, Indiana. As I researched the author further, I became fascinated with her life story.


Geneva Grace "Gene" Stratton was born in 1863 in Wabash County, Indiana, the twelfth child of a farming family. She died in Los Angeles, California in 1924 as the result of a traffic accident. In the years between, she married Charles Porter, had one daughter (Jeannette) and wrote 12 novels and seven nature studies as well as several volumes of poetry and essays, children's books and many magazine articles. 


But that wasn't all. After moving to California, Stratton-Porter (note the hyphenated name, which may be common today but certainly wasn't back then) she formed her own film company and produced eight motion pictures based on her novels. A naturalist, wildlife photographer, filmmaker and author whose books have a readership estimated at 50 million, Gene Stratton-Porter was born an Indiana farm girl, but lived like a Renaissance woman.



Gene Stratton-Porter




Two of her homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are maintained by Indiana as historic sites: Gene Stratton-Porter Cabin “The Cabin in Wildflower Woods”, Rome City (Noble County) and Gene Stratton-Porter “Limberlost”, Geneva (Adams County).


Her books are still worth reading, despite - or maybe because of - their flavor of the past. That sense of times past is even stronger in the black-and-white movies made from her books. (I haven't seen the one that's currently available, so I can't speak for that one.)


Looking back on Gene Stratton-Porter and all she accomplished has served to remind me that strong, independent women didn't suddenly evolve as a result of the suffragette movement. Gene Stratton-Porter's writings were seeds she planted more than a hundred years ago -- a Hoosier farm girl who carved her own future and, indirectly, helped shape mine.


Keeper of the Bees




Were there books you read as a child that, looking back, may have influenced the direction your life took? I'd love to hear about them!











Gene Stratton-Porter “Limberlost”, Geneva
(Adams County)Gene Stratton-Porter “Limberlost”, Geneva (Adams County).




0 Kudos
by Author KandyShepherd on ‎11-09-2010 09:21 AM

Hi Becke, I absolutely adored A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST and haven't heard mention of it for years. Thanks for the interesting post on Gene Stratton-Porter.

Like you I was an eclectic reader and an early reader--including books that I was way too young to have been reading such as the French author Colette and D.H. Lawrence!

Of the children's authors  Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real favorite. 

And then there is that sometimes maligned and often parodied author, Enid Blyton. I loved her stories of The Faraway Tree the best, where the children would climb the magic tree to find themselves in a different land peopled by magical folk. I really wanted that tree to be true and Blyton's writings must surely have helped develop the imagination I needed to become a writer. When I read some of her tales of talking dolls and naughty teddies to my daughter when she was little I was struck by what good stories they were--even though the language was more simplistic than some of the contemporary authors. My daughter wanted to hear them over and over.

 I don't feel the need to reread Enid Blyton now--maybe when I have grandchildren--but I would like to get hold of a copy of A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST!


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-09-2010 09:33 AM

Kandy - I discovered Enid Blyton after I got married, when we moved to England. Her books are available in the U.S., but she wasn't well known when I was growing up. A.A. Milne's Winne-the-Pooh (not the Disney version) was my equivalent of Blyton. I also liked Tasha Tudor and Rumer Godden. Like you, I read far above my age group, mainly because i read what was available and those were mainly my parents' books. When my best friend was avidly devouring Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was reading CADDIE WOODLAWN, James Thurber, the verses of Ogden Nash and the ballads of Robert Service (the latter were my grandfather's books).


I wonder if FRECKLES and A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST might have originally belonged to my grandfather, too -- or even his wife, who died before I was born. The covers were coming off by the time I read them, so they'd been around awhile.


I also fell in love with a book called SPARKENBROKE by Charles Morgan - hardly anyone seems to read that these days. Add Jean Webster's DADDY LONG-LEGS to that list, and anything by Babs H. Deal. 


I never did read Wilder - around the time my best friend got hooked on them, I discovered Agatha Christie, and the die was cast!

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