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Maine Writers Index - Detail (Return to List)
Ann Sophia Winterbotham Stephens (1810 - 1886)
Genre: General Fiction, Poetry, Non-Fiction, Romance Novel, Short Stories
Ann Sophia Winterbotham Stephens
(1810 - 1886)
Ann Stephens, one of the most widely read 19th-century American writers, was born in Humphreysville, Connecticut on 30 March 1810. In 1831 she and Edward Stephens married and moved to Portland, Maine. Three years later they began publishing Portland Magazine. Edward was the publisher and Ann, the editor/writer. More information about Ann's responsibilities can be found in Gwen Thompson's article 'Ann S. Stephens and the First Portland Magazine,' which was printed in the September 1994 issue of the current Portland Magazine. In 1836 Ann published her first book, The Portland Sketch Book, a collection of local writers' work.
In 1837 the Stephens moved to New York City where Ann began her long career as a magazine writer and editor. She was associated with Ladies' Companion, Graham's Magazine, and Peterson's Magazine.
In 1856, Stephens started her own magazine, Mrs. Stephens' Illustrated New Monthly. Two years later, however, it merged with Peterson's. Stephens wrote mostly historical and romantic melodramas that first appeared in serial form in the above magazines and other popular women's publications. Many of the stories were then published in book form that Stephens' numerous avid readers quickly purchased.
Stephens met Edgar Allan Poe, editor of Graham's Magazine, when she was on the periodical's staff in 1841 and 1842. Poe later mentioned her and her work in The Literati of New York City, a series published in Godey's Lady's Book in 1846.
Stephens was the author of the first dime novel Beadle & Adams Company published when the company reissued her 1839 serial, Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter (1860) in book form. It is reported to have sold over 300,000 copies. Stephens, like Elizabeth Oakes Smith, became one of the publisher's stable of writers. Malaeska's text and illustrations are located on the Beadle & Adams web site. A brief excerpt from Sybil Chase; or, The Valley Ranche. A Tale of California Life. Dime Novel No. 21 (1861), plus biographical information on Stephens, are also available on the site. Brief descriptions of Stephens' Beadle novels (1,3,21,45,56,63,70), among others', can be found on the dime novel site.
In addition to her novels and short stories, Stephens also wrote verse and literary reviews. One of her poems, 'The Cable,' was set to the music of 'The Star Spangled Banner.' She was one of several contemporaries of Melville who found little worth in The Confidence Man (1857).
Stephens used the pseudonym 'Jonathan Slick' when she wrote a series of sketches focusing on an imaginary Yankee's experience in New York City. Edward Stephens published them under the title High Life in New York. By Jonathan Slick, Esq. of Weathersfield, Connecticut. A Series of Letters to Mr. Zephariah Slick, Justice of the Peace, and Deacon of the Church over to Weathersfield, in the State of Connecticut. (1843).
Other Stephens' titles include:
Discussion of Stephens' importance and influence on American literature can
be found in Women Vernacular Humorists in Nineteenth-Century
America: Ann Stephens, Francis [i.e. Frances] Whitcher, and Marietta Holley (1988)
and Hired Pens: Professional Writers in America's Golden Age of
Print (1997). Another excellent print source of information is Notable
American Women. Stephens died on 20 August 1886.