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Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (August 8, 1896December 14, 1953) Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings House and Farm Yard, Women's History Month 2006-A National Register of Historic Places Feature was an Americanmarker author who lived in rural Floridamarker and wrote novels with rural themes and settings. Her best known work, The Yearling, about a boy who adopts an orphaned fawn, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939 and was later made into a movie, also known as The Yearling. The book was written long before the concept of young-adult fiction, but is now commonly included in teen-reading lists.

Early life

Marjorie Kinnan was born in 1896 in Washington, DCmarker, to Frank, an attorney for the US Patent Office, and Ida Traphagen Kinnan. She grew up in the Brooklandmarker neighborhood and was interested in writing as early as age six, and submitted stories to the children's sections of newspapers until she was 16. At age 15, she entered a story titled "The Reincarnation of Miss Hetty," for which she won a prize.

She attended the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker where she joined Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and received a degree in English in 1918, and met Charles Rawlings while working for the school literary magazine. Kinnan briefly worked for the YWCA editorial board in New Yorkmarker, and married Charles in 1919. The couple moved to Louisville, Kentuckymarker writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal and then Rochester, New Yorkmarker both writing for the Rochester Journal, and Marjorie writing a syndicated column called "Songs of the Housewife."

In 1928, with a small inheritance from her mother, the Rawlingses purchased a 72 acre (290,000 m²) orange grove near Hawthorne, Floridamarker, in a hamlet named Cross Creekmarker for its location between Orange Lakemarker and Lochloosa Lake. She brought the place to international fame through her writing. She was fascinated with the remote wilderness and the lives of Cross Creek residents, her Cracker neighbors, and felt a profound and transforming connection to the region and the land. Wary at first, the local residents soon warmed to her and opened up their lives and experiences to her. Marjorie filled several notebooks with descriptions of the animals, plants, Southern dialect, and recipes and used these descriptions in her writings.

Writing career

In 1926, Scribner's accepted two of her stories, "Cracker Chidlings" and "Jacob's Ladder," both about the poor, backcountry Florida residents who were quite similar to her neighbors at Cross Creek. Local reception to her stories was mixed between puzzlement of whom she was writing about and rage, as apparently one mother recognized her son as a subject in a story and threatened to whip Rawlings until she was dead.

Her first novel, South Moon Under, was published in 1933. The book captured the richness of Cross Creek and its environs in telling the story of a young man, Lant, who must support himself and his mother by making and selling moonshine, and what he must do when a traitorous cousin threatens to turn him in. Moonshiners were the subject of several of her stories, and Rawlings lived with a moonshiner for several weeks near Ocalamarker to prepare for writing the book. "South Moon Under" was included in the Book-of-the-Month Club and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

That same year, she and her husband were divorced; living in rural Florida did not appeal to him.

One of her least well received books, Golden Apples, came out in 1935. It tells the stories of several people who suffer from unrequited love from people unsuited for them. Rawlings herself was disappointed in it, and in a 1935 letter to her publisher Max Perkins, she called it "interesting trash instead of literature."

But she found immense success in 1938 with The Yearling, a story about a Florida boy and his pet deer, which he is forced to shoot when the deer grows up and eats the family's crop, and the break he makes with his father as a result of it. It was also selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for 1939. MGM purchased the rights to the film version, which was released in 1946, and it made her very famous.

In 1942, Rawlings published Cross Creek, an autobiographical account of her relationships with her neighbors and her beloved Florida hammocks. Again it was chosen by the Book-of-the-Month Club, and it was even released in a special armed forces edition, sent to servicemen during World War II. She followed that with Cross Creek Cookery, a compilation of recipes that was evidence of her passion for cooking.

Rawlings' final novel, The Sojourner, published in 1953 and set in a northern setting, was about the life of a man and his relationship to his family: a difficult mother who favors her other, first-born son and his relationship to this absent older brother. In order to absorb the natural setting so vital to her writing, she bought an old farmhouse in Van Hornesville, New Yorkmarker and spent part of each year there until her death.Rawlings published 33 short stories from 1912 to 1949. Her editor was the legendary Maxwell Perkins of Scribner’s. Over the years, she built friendships with fellow writers Ernest Hemingway whom she met in 1936 and traded praises with about their writing, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald whom she also met in 1936 when Fitzgerald was recuperating in the mountains in North Carolinamarker, Robert Frost, and Margaret Mitchell.

Because many of Rawling's works were centered in the North and Central Florida area, she was often considered a regional writer. Rawlings herself rejected this label saying, "I don't hold any brief for regionalism, and I don't hold with the regional novel as such … don't make a novel about them unless they have a larger meaning than just quaintness."

Libel case

In 1943, Rawlings faced a libel suit for her book Cross Creek by her very good friend Zelma Cason, whom Rawlings met the first day she moved to Florida. Cason, in fact, helped to smooth the angry mother made upset by her son's depiction in "Jacob's Ladder."

Rawlings described Cason in this passage, yet never used her last name in the book:
"Zelma is an ageless spinster resembling an angry and efficient canary. She manages her orange grove and as much of the village a county as needs management or will submit to it. I cannot decide whether she should have been a man or a mother. She combines the more violent characteristics of both and those who ask for or accept her ministrations think nothing at being cursed loudly at the very instant of being tenderly fed, clothed, nursed, or guided through their troubles."

Cason was outraged, and claimed Rawlings made her out to be a "hussy," although Rawlings spoke with her immediately and assumed their friendship was intact. Cason, however, decided to sue Rawlings for $100,000 US for invasion of privacy—a charge that had never been argued in a Florida court—as the courts found libel too ambiguous. Cason was represented by one of the first women lawyers in Florida, Kate Walton. Cason was reportedly profane indeed (one of her neighbors reported her swearing could be heard for a quarter of a mile), wore pants, had a fascination with guns, and was just as extraordinarily independent as Rawlings herself. The toll the case took on Rawlings was great, in both time and emotion. Reportedly, Rawlings was shocked to learn of Cason's reaction to the book, and felt somewhat betrayed. After the case was over, she moved away from Cross Creek and never wrote about it again, despite the fact that Cason and Rawlings eventually mended their friendship.

Rawlings won the case and enjoyed a brief vindication, but the verdict was overturned in appellate court and Rawlings was ordered to pay damages in the amount of $1 US.

Personal life

With money she made from The Yearling, Rawlings bought a beach cottage at Crescent Beachmarker, ten miles south of St. Augustinemarker.

In 1941 Rawlings married Ocalamarker hotelier Norton Baskin, and he remodeled an old mansion into the Castle Warden Hotel in St. Augustinemarker (currently the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum). After World War II, he sold the hotel and managed the Dolphin Restaurant at Marinelandmarker, which was then Florida's number one tourist attraction. Rawlings and Baskin made their primary home at Crescent Beach, and Rawlings and Baskin both continued their respective occupations independently. When a visitor to the Castle Warden Hotel suggested she saw the influence of Rawlings in the decor, Baskin protested, saying, "You do not see Mrs. Rawlings' fine hand in this place. Nor will you see my big foot in her next book. That's our agreement. She writes. I run a hotel." After purchasing her land in New York, Rawlings spent half the year there and half the year with Baskin in St. Augustine.

Her singular admitted vanity was cooking. She said, "I get as much satisfaction from preparing a perfect dinner for a few good friends as from turning out a perfect paragraph in my writing."

Rawlings befriended and corresponded with Mary McLeod Bethune and Zora Neale Hurston. Zora Neale Hurston visited her at Cross Creek. But in keeping with race relations of the time, she was made to sleep with Idella, the black maid, in the "tenant house," not in Marjorie's house. Her views on race relations were much different than her neighbors, castigating white Southerners for infantalizing African Americans and labeling their economic differences with whites "a scandal", but simultaneously considered whites superior. She described her African-American employee Idella as "the perfect maid." Their relationship is described in the book Idella: Marjorie Rawlings' "Perfect Maid", by Idella Parker and Mary Keating.

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have noted her longing for a male child through her writings, as far back as her first story as a teenage girl in, "The Reincarnation of Miss Hetty," and repeated throughout several works, letters, and characters, most notably in The Yearling. In fact, she stated that as a child she had a gift for telling stories, but that she demanded all her audiences be boys.

Her hatred of cities was intense: she wrote a sonnet titled, "Having Left Cities Behind Me" published in Scribner's in 1938 to illustrate it (excerpt):
"Now, having left cities behind me, turned

Away forever from the strange, gregarious

Huddling of men by stones, I find those various

Great towns I knew fused into one, burned

Together in the fire of my despising..."

She was criticized throughout her career for being uneven with her talent in writing, something she recognized in herself, and that reflected periods of depression and artistic frustration. She has been described as having unique sensibilities; she wrote of feeling "vibrations" from the land, and often preferred long periods of solitude at Cross Creek. She was known for being remarkably strong-willed, but after her death, Norton Baskin wrote of her, "Marjorie was the shyest person I have ever known. This was always strange to me as she could stand up to anybody in any department of endeavor but time after time when she was asked to go some place or to do something she would accept -'if I would go with her.'"

Rawlings died in 1953 in St. Augustine of a cerebral hemorrhage. She bequeathed most of her property to the University of Floridamarker in Gainesvillemarker, where she taught creative writing in Anderson Hallmarker. In return, her name was given to a new dormitory dedicated in 1958 as Rawlings Hall which occupies prime real estate in the heart of the campus. Her land at Cross Creek is now the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Parkmarker.Norton Baskin survived her by 44 years, passing away in 1997. They are buried side-by-side at Antioch Cemetery near Island Grove, Florida. Rawlings' tombstone, with Baskin's inscription, reads "Through her writing she endeared herself to the people of the world." Rawlings' reputation has managed to outlive those of many of her contemporaries. A posthumously-published children's book, The Secret River, won a Newbery Honor in 1956, and movies were made, long after her death, of her story Gal Young 'Un, and her semi-fictionalized memoir Cross Creek (Norton Baskin, then in his eighties, made a cameo appearance in the latter movie).

In 2008, the United States Postal Service unveiled a stamp bearing Rawlings' image, in her honor.


Short Stories
  • 1912 "The Reincarnation of Miss Hetty"
  • 1931 "Cracker Chidlins"
  • 1931 "Jacob's Ladder"
  • 1931 "Plumb Care Conscience"
  • 1932 "A Crop of Beans"
  • 1932 "Gal Young Un" (O. Henry Award First Prize for 1932)
  • 1933 "Hyacinth Drift"
  • 1933 "Alligators"
  • 1933 "Benny and the Bird Dogs"
  • 1934 "The Pardon"
  • 1936 "A Mother in Mannville"
  • 1936 "Varmints"
  • 1938 "Mountain Rain"
  • 1939 "I Sing While I Cook" (nonfiction)
  • 1939 "Cocks Must Crow"
  • 1940 "The Pelican's Shadow"
  • 1940 "The Enemy"
  • 1941 "Jessamine Springs"
  • 1941 "The Provider"
  • 1942 "Fanny, You Fool!"
  • 1944 "Shell"
  • 1945 "Black Secret"
  • 1945 "Miriam's Houses"
  • 1947 "Mountain Prelude" (6-part series based on "A Mother In Mannville")
  • 1949 "The Friendship"
  • 1940 "In The Heart"

  • 1933 South Moon Under
  • 1935 Golden Apples
  • 1938 The Yearling
  • 1940 When the Whippoorwill
  • 1942 Cross Creek
  • 1942 Cross Creek Cookery
  • 1953 The Sojourner
  • 1955 The Secret River
  • 2002 Blood of My Blood (lost first novel originally written in 1928)


  1. Bloom, Harold, ed."American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960." Volume 3. Chelsea House, Philadelphia 1998.
  2. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Biography | Dictionary of Literary Biography
  3. Kappa Alpha Theta website. Retrieved on December 30, 2007.
  5. History for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park » Florida State Parks
  6. Bellman, Samuel. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Twayne Publishers, New York: 1974.
  7. Treasures of South Florida Libraries. University of Florida
  8. Bigelow, Gordon. Frontier Eden: The Literary Career of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. University of Florida Press, Gainesville; 1956.
  9. Acton, Patricia. Invasion of Privacy: The Cross Creek Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. University of Florida Press, Gainesville: 1988.
  10. Clowes, Molly. "Fact and Fiction." Louisville Courier-Journal, October 5, 1939: p.1
  11. Rawlings, Marjorie K. "Cross Creek" 1942.
  12. Hines, Laura. "Invasion of Privacy" (book review), in Michigan Law Review, Vol. 88:1925.
  13. Evans, Harry. "Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Part One," The Family Circle. May 7, 1943: pp 10-11.
  14. Pfeiffer, Sarah. "Only One Road to Success-Says Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings," Christian Science Monitor, September 4, 1940.
  15. Letters to MKR from, A-F
  16. ZNH and MKR
  17. Idella, Marjorie Rawling's "Perfect Maid", ISBN 0-8130-1142-4 paage 86-88.
  18. Evans, Harry. "Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Part One," The Family Circle. May 7, 1943: pp 18.
  19. Rawlings Hall at the University of Florida
  20. Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Gets 'Stamp of Approval'

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