Queer Places:
University of Wisconsin–Madison, 716 Langdon St, Madison, WI 53706
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, 18700 S, Co Rd 325, Cross Creek, FL 32640
6600 Broward St, St. Augustine, FL 32080
Castle Warden Hotel, 19 San Marco Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32084
Dolphin Restaurant at Marineland, 9600 N Ocean Shore Blvd, St. Augustine, FL 32080
Antioch Cemetery Island Grove, Alachua County, Florida, USA

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1953Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (August 8, 1896 – December 14, 1953)[1] was an American author who lived in rural Florida 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[2] and was later made into a movie of the same name. The book was written long before the concept of young adult fiction, but is now commonly included in teen-reading lists.

Marjorie Kinnan was born in 1896 in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Ida May Traphagen and Arthur Frank Kinnan, an attorney for the US Patent Office.[1][3] She grew up in the Brookland 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 into a contest a story titled "The Reincarnation of Miss Hetty", for which she won a prize.[4] She attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she joined Kappa Alpha Theta[5] sorority and received a degree in English in 1918. She was selected as a member of the local senior women's honor society on campus, which in 1920 became a chapter of the national senior women's society, Mortar Board. She met Charles Rawlings while working for the school literary magazine, and married him in 1919. Kinnan briefly worked for the YWCA editorial board in New York City. [1] The couple moved to Louisville, Kentucky, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal and then Rochester, New York both writing for the Rochester Journal,[6] and Marjorie writing a syndicated column called "Songs of the Housewife".[3] In 1928, with a small inheritance from her mother, the Rawlingses purchased a 72-acre (290,000 m²) orange grove near Hawthorne, Florida, in a hamlet named Cross Creek for its location between Orange Lake 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 "Florida cracker" neighbors, and felt a profound and transforming connection to the region and the land.[7][8] Wary at first, the local residents soon warmed to her and opened up their lives and experiences to her. Marjorie actually made many visits to meet with Calvin and Mary Long to observe their family relationships.[9] This relationship ended up being used as a model for the family in her most successful novel, The Yearling.[9] The Longs lived in a clearing named Pat's Island, but Marjorie renamed the clearing "Baxter's Island."[9] Marjorie filled several notebooks with descriptions of the animals, plants, Southern dialect, and recipes and used these descriptions in her writings.[10]

In 1943, Rawlings faced a libel suit for Cross Creek, filed by her neighbor Zelma Cason, whom Rawlings had met the first day she moved to Florida. Cason had helped to soothe the mother made upset by her son's depiction in "Jacob's Ladder".[12] Cason claimed Rawlings made her out to be a "hussy". Rawlings had assumed their friendship was intact and spoke with her immediately.[12] Cason went ahead with the lawsuit seeking $100,000 US for invasion of privacy (as the courts found libel too ambiguous). It was a cause of action that had never been argued in a Florida court.[11] Rawlings used Cason's forename in the book, but described her in this passage: Zelma is an ageless spinster resembling an angry and efficient canary. She manages her orange grove and as much of the village and 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.[14] Cason was represented by one of the first female 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.[15] 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.[11] The toll the case took on Rawlings was great, in both time and emotion. Reportedly, Rawlings had been shocked to learn of Cason's reaction to the book, and felt betrayed. After the case was over, she spent less time in Cross Creek and never wrote another book about Florida, though she had been considering doing a sequel to Cross Creek.

With the money she made from The Yearling, Rawlings bought a beach cottage at Crescent Beach, ten miles south of St. Augustine. In 1941 Rawlings married Ocala hotelier Norton Baskin (1901–1997), and he remodeled an old mansion into the Castle Warden Hotel in St. Augustine (currently the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum). After World War II, he sold the hotel and managed the Dolphin Restaurant at Marineland, 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."[16] After purchasing her land in New York, Rawlings spent half the year there and half the year with Baskin in St. Augustine. Rawlings befriended and corresponded with Mary McLeod Bethune[18] and Zora Neale Hurston.[19] Zora Neale Hurston visited her at Cross Creek. Rawlings resisted social norms of the time in allowing Hurston, an African-American, to sleep in her home instead of relegating her to the tenant house. Rawlings' views on race relations were much different than her neighbors', castigating white Southerners for infantilizing African Americans and labeling their economic differences with whites "a scandal", but simultaneously considered whites superior.[8][14] 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.[20]

Rawlings died in 1953 in St. Augustine of a cerebral hemorrhage. She bequeathed most of her property to the University of Florida, Gainesville, where she taught creative writing in Anderson Hall. In return, her name was given to a new dormitory dedicated in 1958 as Rawlings Hall[25] which occupies prime real estate in the heart of the campus.


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