If you haven’t already figured it out, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I love writing. My dream is to one day write groundbreaking articles for major national publications about world events, hobnob with Hollywood’s elite, and write popular novels that are turned into movies. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she? There was a woman who lived my dream. Her name was Mary Roberts Rinehart, and she was a nurse.
Mary was born in 1876 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She entered nursing school when she was 17 years old and married a doctor when she 19. My mother would have liked this girl. She gave birth to her son, and future publisher, Stanley Marshall Rinehart, in 1897. An author’s biggest challenge is finding a publisher. I never thought about giving birth to one. In her book, My Story, published in 1931 by Farrar & Rinehart, Mary describes the training she received in nursing school, and the state of the nursing profession at the end of the 19th century. Mary wrote that in 1890, three years before she entered nursing school, there were only four hundred and seventy-one trained nurses in America. She also said that only two per cent of American women during this time had a high school education or better, and that, remarkably, thirty-two per cent of the women entering nursing schools during the same time were high school graduates. Mary’s training was rigorous, backbreaking work. She said that it molded her character, and gave her life experiences that she would later draw upon during her writing career.
Mary wasn’t exactly a stay-at-home mom. Although she was a dedicated mother, there were times when she wanted to get out of the house. Thank God her Victorian husband wasn’t a domineering jerk, and that he encouraged her to follow her dreams. Mary was the first woman war correspondent during World War I, was a world traveler, hung out with the rich and famous (see the picture of Mary hanging out with her friends Douglas Fairbanks and Cecil B. DeMille), and wrote numerous popular novels. Some of her novels were turned into movies. The phrase, “The butler did it,” came from Mary’s novel, The Door, although that exact phrasing would come later when the book was made into a play. My favorite books come from her Nurse Hilda Adams mystery series. I’ll write about those books later.
I wonder what Mary would be writing about today. I bet she’d have a blog.