Mary Jane Holmes: A Brockport Bright

By Emma Cafarella

Mary Jane Holmes, born in Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1825, is the second highest selling female author of the nineteenth-century United States, trailing only Harriet Beecher Stowe with a sold total of more than two million books. She wrote a total of 39 novels in addition to several novellas and short stories, publishing her first story at just 15 years old. Holmes wrote from a female perspective about issues of gender, class, war, and slavery. 

At the time that Holmes had published her first and most successful novel, Tempest and Sunshine, she and her husband moved to Brockport, New York. She had always used a small-town setting and townspeople she knew in her writing, so Brockport provided the perfect ambience to inspire more pieces. The Holmes’ lived on 25 College Street in “the little brown cottage.” When they both died, their home became a historical site and tourist attraction that still stands in Brockport today. A marker right outside of the cottage has been dedicated to Mary Jane Holmes in remembrance of all she had done and the effects her work had on women and the town itself.

The marker dedicated to Mary Jane Holmes outside “the little brown cottage.” 43° 12.708′ N, 77° 56.452′ W. Brockport, New York

Mary Jane Holmes was buried with her husband in Brockport’s High Street Cemetery. Their graves are marked with a small spire and a Celtic cross beside two foot stones with their names and dates (left). Her individual footstone can be seen on the right.

For locals, Mary Jane Holmes’ work can be found at the Seymour Public Library and in the Morgan-Manning House (both historical landmarks themselves), also located in the town of Brockport. 


Citations:

MaryJane, “A Kindred Mary Jane,” Raising Jane, 27 May 2014

Pamela Scott, “Mary Jane Holmes Historical Marker,” The Historical Marker Database, 6 May 2011

Steven Huff, “Brockport: A. Poulin, Jr. and Mary Jane Holmes,” In Our Home Ground, 2018

1 comment

  1. You might be interested that two of her novels were turned into movies. Tempest and Sunshine seems to have disappeared, but ‘Lena Rivers’ was done several times and the 1932 version is available – in fact the Friends of Drake Library showed it a few years ago.
    Who would have guessed Brockport would produce one of the all-time best selling noverlists!

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