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.
Annotation In the intimate language of one who watched birds daily, Karle Wilson Baker brought readers face to face with the wonders of the East Texas woods in the 1930s. She wrote about tiny warblers, industrious chickadees, and purple finches; the aery trills and tantalizing color flashes of the hummingbirds; the bell tones of the woodthrush; the daily visits and rare drop-ins of the prolific bird life of the region. In a daily diary she kept throughout her life, Baker recorded her observations of the many birds that lived in the heavily wooded setting of her Nacogdoches home, called Tanglewood. When her family moved from the house, she collected her essays on bird life into this volume, illustrated by her daughter Charlotte and published in 1930. Her little classic speaks with the voice of her times to readers today who enjoy their avian companions. For more about the author of this charming volume, see Texas Woman of Letters, Karle Wilson Baker, a biography written by Sarah Ragland Jackson and published by Texas A & M University Press
Born in the 1880s in Jefferson, Texas, Lillian B. Jones Horace grew up in Fort Worth and dreamed of being a college-educated teacher, a goal she achieved. But life was hard for her and other blacks living and working in the Jim Crow South. Her struggles convinced her that education, particularly that involving the printed word, was the key to black liberation. In 1916, before Marcus Garvey gained fame for advocating black economic empowerment and a repatriation movement, Horace wrote a back-to-Africa novel, Five Generations Hence, the earliest published novel on record by a black woman from Texas and the earliest known utopian novel by any African American woman. She also wrote a biography of Lacey Kirk Williams, a renowned president of the National Baptist Convention; another novel, Angie Brown, that was never published; and a host of plays that her students at I. M. Terrell High School performed. Five Generations Hence languished after its initial publication. Along with Horace’s diary, the unpublished novel, and the Williams biography, the book was consigned to a collection owned by the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society and housed at the Fort Worth Public Library. There, scholar and author Karen Kossie-Chernyshev rediscovered Horace’s work in the course of her efforts to track down and document a literary tradition that has been largely ignored by both the scholarly community and general readers. In this book, the full text of Horace’s Five Generations Hence, annotated and contextualized by Kossie-Chernyshev, is once again presented for examination by scholars and interested readers.In 2009 Kossie-Chernyshev invited nine scholars to a conference at Texas Southern University to give Horace’s works a comprehensive interdisciplinary examination. Subsequent work on those papers resulted in the studies that form the second half of this book.
In recent decades, a small but growing number of historians have dedicated their tireless attention to analyzing the role of women in Texas history. Each contribution—and there have been many—represents a brick in the wall of new Texas history. From early Native societies to astronauts, Women in Texas History assembles those bricks into a carefully crafted structure as the first book to cover the full scope of Texas women’s history. By emphasizing the differences between race and ethnicity, Angela Boswell uses three broad themes to tie together the narrative of women in Texas history. First, the physical and geographic challenges of Texas as a place significantly affected women’s lives, from the struggles of isolated frontier farming to the opportunities and problems of increased urbanization. Second, the changing landscape of legal and political power continued to shape women’s lives and opportunities, from the ballot box to the courthouse and beyond. Finally, Boswell demonstrates the powerful influence of social and cultural forces on the identity, agency, and everyday life of women in Texas. In challenging male-dominated legal and political systems, Texan women shaped (and were shaped by) class, religion, community organizations, literary and artistic endeavors, and more. Women in Texas History is the first book to narrate the entire span of Texas women’s history and marks a major achievement in telling the full story of the Lone Star State. Historians and general readers alike will find this book an informative and enjoyable read for anyone interested in the history of Texas or the history of women.
Dreamers on Horseback collects the body of Baker's poetry into a single volume; introduced and annotated by Baker biographer Sarah Ragland Jackson, the book reintroduces Baker to a 21st Century audience. During Baker's lifetime, the poet—despite her residence in East Texas—published her work widely in some of the top journals of the country, then and now, including The Yale Review, Poetry, and Harper's. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters, and, for nearly five decades, she was one of Texas's most widely published and regarded poets. Dreamers on Horseback, first published by the now defunct Southwest Press of Texas in 1931, garnered Baker a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Seventy years after its publication Dreamers is once again available.