Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was born on August 8, 1896, in Washington DC. The daughter of a patent lawyer, she became interested in writing by the age of six.
After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she studied English. She worked for the school’s literary magazine, where Marjorie first met Charles Rawlings. They were married in 1919.
The two aspiring writers moved across the country for work in newspapers, first to Louisville, Kentucky and then to Rochester, New York. In the latter, she had a column titled “Songs of the Housewife.”
In 1928, Rawlings inherited a 72-acre plot of land from her mother in the town of Cross Creek, Florida. She was inspired by her surroundings and her letters caught the interest of an editor at Scribner’s. Two stories were published in 1930.
Her first book, South Moon Under, was published about moonshiners in 1933. She lived in Ocala for a time doing research. It was later chosen for the Book-of-the-Month Club. The same year, she and Charles were divorced because he didn’t want to live in the country anymore.
In 1938, she wrote The Yearling, which is considered to be her most successful title. It was also selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club, earned a Pulitzer Prize, and was turned into a popular film.
She married Norton Baskin, an Ocala hotelier, around 1941. In 1943, she was sued for libel for her depiction of her neighbors as characters in Cross Creek. She won the case, but still had to pay damages.
Rawlings died in 1953 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She gave most of her possessions to the University of Florida and was buried alongside her husband in St. Augustine. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986.
Brookland, Washington DC
The Brookland neighborhood of Washington DC where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings first started writing as a child and later won a contest for her work at age 15.
It’s named for the Brooks family, whose land it was created from. Today it’s home to Victorian and Queen Anne-style homes as well as historic landmarks like the Brooks Mansion and the nearby Catholic University of America.
After graduating from college, the newly married Rawlings moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work at the Louisville Courier-Journal. The newspaper was founded in 1868 and is still publishing today. Fellow alumni of the paper include poet Kate Harrington and Appalachian food writer Ronni Lundy.
Cross Creek, Florida
Rawlings inherited a former orange grove in 1928 in Cross Creek, Florida. The rural area south of Gainesville became her inspiration for the settings of her works and her neighbors as characters. Fellow writers came to visit her here, including Zora Neale Hurston.
Today the home functions as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Historic Site and operates tours of the interior and grounds. She also taught at the University of Florida and gave the school many of her possessions in her will. A dormitory is now named for her.
Upon her death, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was buried at Antioch Cemetery, not far from Cross Creek. Her husband was buried alongside her upon his death. Fans still leave pens and “yearling” sculptures on the grave.
St. Augustine, Florida
After the success of The Yearling, Rawlings purchased a cottage at Crescent Beach, an area outside of St. Augustine. Her husband Baskin renovated the Castle Warden Hotel, now the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which was the site of a devastating fire that led to the deaths of guests. The beach house is still standing, but privately owned.
Rawlings attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, studying English. She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority as well as the Mortar Board, a women’s honor society.
Rochester, New York
Rawlings worked at the Rochester Journal after her time in Louisville, penning her own column. She returned later to nearby Van Hornesville and spent part of the year in her farmhouse there for the rest of her life.
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