Queer Places:
Miss Porter’s School, 60 Main St, Farmington, CT 06032
Radgale, 1230 Green Bay Rd, Lake Forest, IL 60045
Graceland Cemetery Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA

Frances Lillian Wells Shaw (April 10, 1872 - October 12, 1937) was an American poet and philanthropist.[1] The editors of Poetry, Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson included in their 1917 selection for The New Poetry: An Anthology poems by Frances Shaw. According to Adrienne Munich and Melissa Bradshaw, authors of Amy Lowell, American Modern, what connects these poets is their appartenance to the queer sisterhood. Friend Carl Sandburg wrote the poem “Lady” in Frances’s honor in 1915.

Frances Lillian Wells was born and grew up in Chicago, the daughter of early Chicago shoe merchant Moses D. Wells and his wife, Frances E. Searls. She attended Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. In 1893 she married architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. The couple had 3 daughters: Evelyn (born 1893), Sylvia (1897), and Theodora (1912). The family lived in Chicago, in a duplex designed by Howard Shaw, and spent their summers with his family at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois,[2] also designed by Howard Shaw. Frances Shaw’s husband built a writing studio for her on the Ragdale property. The cottage was named Wogden, a version of “Wog’s Den,” his nickname for Frances. Shaw lined the path to the studio with eight small elms and a balustrade. He referred to this section of the property as “Peacedale” because it was a restful “piece of Ragdale.”

As early as 1909 Frances Shaw had written and produced her earliet play, The Heir of Manville Grange: A peripetatic play in four acts. She went on to write several other plays, and acted in the Lake Forest Players of Mary Aldis. Around 1912, Howard Shaw designed and built an outdoor theater, the Ragdale Ring, on the Ragdale property as a showcase for his wife's plays.[2] Frances Shaw was writing poetry by 1910, and her debut collection (Ragdale Verses, a limited edition of 50 copies) was published by the Gothic Press of Lake Forest in 1911.

Frances Wells Shaw with daughters Sylvia and Evelyn, c. 1906. Courtesy of Shaw Family Ragdale Collection, Lake Forest College Library Special Collections

Shaw and her husband financially supported Poetry magazine; Frances Shaw was also a friend and travelling companion of Poetry editor Harriet Monroe, and her daughter Evelyn worked for a time in the Poetry office.[2] Frances Shaw's poems appeared in Poetry beginning in the March 1914 issue, as well as in anthologies from the magazine. She also published poetry in The Century magazine and The Soul of a City: an urban anthology (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923).[2] The Shaws traveled extensively in America and Europe. Following Howard Shaw's death in 1926, Frances Shaw continued to travel, lecturing and publishing newspaper and magazine articles about her trips. She died in 1937 at her home in Chicago.[1] After her death, her daughter Evelyn published a collection of her work called Who Loves the Rain and Other Poems by Frances Shaw (1940).

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