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Texas Woman of Letters, Karle Wilson Baker

By Sarah Ragland Jackson

Publication Year: 2005

Karle Wilson Baker was the best-known Texas poet of the early twentieth century. Yet, while many of her male contemporaries remain well known to Texas literature, she is not. Her energy and significant role in shaping the literature of Texas equaled those of Walter Prescott Webb or J. Frank Dobie, with whom she ranked as the first Fellows of the Texas Institute of Letters. Her modern lifestyle as an independent, “new” woman and her active career as a writer, teacher, and lecturer placed her among the avant-garde of women in the nation, although she lived in the small town of Nacogdoches. She was a multi-talented writer with a wide range of interests, yet she championed Texas and the history and natural beauty of East Texas above all else. Sarah R. Jackson’s thoroughly researched biography of Karle Wilson Baker introduces her to a new generation. Baker’s life also opens a window onto the literary times in which she lived and particularly the path of a woman making her way in the largely male-dominated world of nationally acclaimed writers. Beyond the literary insights this book offers, Jackson spotlights developments in East Texas such as the discovery of oil and the founding of what would become Stephen F. Austin State University in Baker’s hometown. Extensive work in a number of regional and state archives and interviews with many who remembered Baker allow Jackson to offer an account that is not only thorough but also lively and entertaining.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v


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p. vii


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p. ix

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Series Editor’s Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

Karle Wilson Baker was one of the most recognized and honored poets in Texas in the twentieth century, and Sarah Ragland Jackson’s biography of her literary life witnesses that claim. Ask most people today, however, and they will not have heard of her. Born to be a writer, Karle Wilson had a fire in her belly to write and found inspiration to fan those flames in deep East Texas after her parents moved from Little Rock to Nacogdoches in 1901. Her story, ably told, reveals the making of a writer, of a woman capable of balancing the ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

When my husband and I moved to Nacogdoches more than three decades ago, I heard right away about a local writer of children’s books, Charlotte Baker Montgomery. Soon afterward I met Charlotte and became interested in her books. I learned that Charlotte’s mother, Karle Wilson Baker, had been a local writer as well. Only later as I pursued my own research on the poetry of Robert Frost did I uncover information that Frost had spoken in Nacogdoches in 1933 at the invitation of Karle Wilson Baker. Following that lead, ...

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1. The Early Years

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pp. 3-22

Karle Wilson Baker’s lifelong love of East Texas began when she first arrived in the sleepy village of Nacogdoches in 1901. In a public speech after she had become a national literary figure, she commented:

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2. The Poet Emerges

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pp. 23-51

Even though Karle Wilson Baker had confided in her diary in September 1913 that she was “a writing person,” she had to confront the reality that with her children, Tomby and Charlotte, ages five and three, family life demanded most of her attention.1 She frequently composed short lyrics, but she never could find enough uninterrupted time for a long prose work. She also supported the interests of her husband and her father, who were active in the ...

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3. To Fill My Place The SFA Years

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pp. 52-107

When the Board of Regents came to dedicate Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College on April 30, 1924, the Rotary Club sponsored a luncheon in the board’s honor. A. W. Birdwell, the president of the college, chose Karle Wilson Baker to be a major speaker on the program; she read her recently completed ballad “Within the Alamo” and “The Pine Tree Hymn,” the poem she had written the year before honoring the new college.1 Baker was further recognized ...

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4. The State and the Writer Come of Age

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pp. 108-129

In 1935, “Family Style” was still unpublished, but as she waited for a publisher, Karle Wilson Baker continued to write about Texas. With more time for writing after she left teaching, Baker returned to the project “A Hundred Miles of Memories,” which she had abandoned to write about the East Texas oil field. On September 25, Henry Smith, a new editor for the Southwest Review, wrote to Baker asking her to contribute to a proposed special Texas ...

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5. The Creative Process

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pp. 130-158

In January 1938, Karle Wilson Baker wrote in her diary about serious backaches and rheumatism, but by February, she noted that she was working on her second novel, “A Letter from Jamie” (later titled Star of the Wilderness.)1 February also looked like a promising month for “The Reindeer’s Shoe.” The Henry Holt Company was looking at the manuscript, and Karle Wilson Baker’s literary agent, Sydney Sanders, was trying to get motion picture ...

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6. Full Circle

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pp. 159-176

Baker knew that at some point the writer must draw a final line, plan a final period, and end a work, but the researcher always finds one more piece of information to add, one piece that he finds, perhaps regrettably, too late. Discovering new material might have been the driving force that pushed Baker to write yet another novel at the age of sixty-four. She briefly described that work in a letter to a reviewer at the Cokesbury Bookstore: “It Blows from the ...


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pp. 177-183


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pp. 185-211

Writings of Karle Wilson Baker

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pp. 213-217


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pp. 219-224


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pp. 225-236

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446235
E-ISBN-10: 1603446230
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585444564
Print-ISBN-10: 1585444561

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 7 b&w photos. 4 drawings. 1 illus.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce
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OCLC Number: 824698149
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Texas Woman of Letters, Karle Wilson Baker

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Subject Headings

  • Authors, American -- Homes and haunts -- Texas.
  • Baker, Karle Wilson, 1878-1960.
  • Women and literature -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Texas -- In literature.
  • Texas -- Biography.
  • Texas -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
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