Concept

Mary MacLane

Summary
Mary MacLane (May 1, 1881 – c. August 6, 1929) was a controversial Canadian-born American writer whose frank memoirs helped usher in the confessional style of autobiographical writing. MacLane was known as the "Wild Woman of Butte". MacLane was a popular author for her time, scandalizing the populace with her shocking bestselling first memoir and to a lesser extent her two following books. She was considered wild and uncontrollable, a reputation she nurtured, and was openly bisexual as well as a vocal feminist. In her writings, she compared herself to another frank young memoirist, Marie Bashkirtseff, who died a few years after MacLane was born, and H. L. Mencken called her "the Butte Bashkirtseff." MacLane was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1881, but her family moved to the Red River area of Minnesota, settling in Fergus Falls, which her father helped develop. After his death in 1889, her mother remarried a family friend and lawyer, H. Gysbert Klenze. Soon after, the family moved to Montana, first settling in Great Falls and finally in Butte, where Klenze drained the family funds pursuing mining and other ventures. MacLane spent the remainder of her life in the United States. She began writing for her school paper in 1898. From the beginning, MacLane's writing was characterized by a direct, fiery, individualistic style. She was, however, also influenced by such American regional realists as John Townsend Trowbridge (with whom she exchanged a few letters), Maria Louise Pool, and Hamlin Garland. In 1901, MacLane wrote her first book, which she originally titled I Await the Devil's Coming. Prior to the manuscript's printing the following year, MacLane's publisher, Herbert S. Stone & Company, altered the title to The Story of Mary MacLane. The book proved to be an immediate success, especially among young women, selling over 100,000 copies during its first month of release. It, however, was pilloried by conservative critics and readers, and even lightly ridiculed by H. L. Mencken.
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