ZONA GALE

by Unknown

Among the various types of literature, the short story has become very popular in recent years. Numerous writers are fond of the principles involved in its construction, and are developing this form beyond many others. The short story is not new, for it has been developed in many lands throughout the past centuries. However, there has been a marked revival in its production recently and Wisconsin writers have been interested in developing this type. Among these we have already noticed Hamlin Garland. There will be several others mentioned in these selections, among whom the subject of this sketch is one of the most notable.

Zona Gale, who has made her imaginative "Friendship Village" one of the real places in Wisconsin life, was born at Portage, Wisconsin, August 26, 1874. This city continues to be her home; and the study of its home life, its school life, its social, industrial, and religious life has afforded her the basis for generalizing upon what is true of the life of our time. Her characters are not necessarily Portage people, for they are Wisconsin people and people of other states as well. However, Portage and its life has furnished her many interesting starting points for her comments upon life in general. She has attempted to repay her community for this material furnished her by becoming an integral part of its community life. In its civic improvements, in its home life, in its schools and in its churches, she has had her work and has aspired to do her best towards making her home city beautiful and wholesome.

Zona Gale remembers much of the play life and the school life in her home town during the eighties and early nineties of the last century. She has recently set forth her idealized remembrance of these early experiences in her book entitled "When I Was a Little Girl." One of these is chosen as an illustration of her work.

Besides the school training afforded her by Portage, Zona Gale attended Wayland Academy at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and later she entered the University of Wisconsin, from which institution she received the Bachelor of Literature degree in 1895, and four years later the Master's degree.

After graduation Miss Gale was employed for a time on staffs of Milwaukee and New York papers. Since 1904 she has devoted herself to writing for magazines. She spends some time in New York and the East, but most of her work is done  at her beautiful home, which overlooks the Wisconsin river at Portage.

Miss Gale writes an occasional poem for some magazine. We give "The Holy Place," published in the Bookman some years ago, as an illustration of her poetry. However, it is not as a poet, but rather as a short story writer that we are remembering Zona Gale.

Miss Gale's stories have appeared in the Atlantic, Appleton's, the Cosmopolitan, Everybody's, the Outlook, the Bookman, and other magazines. Her first arrangement of stories in book form, "Romance Island," appeared in 1906. A year later she published "The Loves of Pelleas and Etarre." The two characters mentioned are an old couple of seventy or more, who, under the protecting care of an old servant, Nichola, live a sort of child life. Their pranks, if such they may be called, are the kindly deeds of making others happy. The stories purport to be told by Etarre, who would have us believe that there is quite as much romance in the lives of two old people busily engaged in breaking the rules of the crabbed old nurse as there is in the lives of much younger people. They are constantly on the alert for the romance in the lives of those about them, and it would seem that no love match in their neighborhood could be a success without their assistance. The spirit that pervades the book is that of thoughtful helpfulness.

We are sure to lay aside these stories with the wish that the kindly spirit and the rich enjoyment of Pelleas and Etarre might be true for all old people. We wish every aged couple might stand at the window at Christmas time and send such telegrams of bequest as these which they send to the world:

"And from my spirit to yours I bequeath the hard-won knowledge that you must be true from the beginning. But if by any chance you have not been so, then you must be true from the moment you know."

To this sentiment of Pelleas shall Etarre reply: "From my spirit to your spirit, I bequeath some understanding of the preciousness of love, and the need to keep it true."

Stories must happen somewhere, and the capital of Zona Gale's character world is "Friendship Village." Here occur the loves of her youthful romances, the gossips of the older worldly wise. Here her clubs originate and accomplish their tasks. In this village occur the struggles for social and industrial reform in which Zona Gale is so much interested, and here, too, takes place all that great conflict for civic righteousness which brings "Friendship Village" slowly nearer the goal of perfection as she understands it. "Friendship Village" is probably located nowhere, but still Miss Gale has been so successful in writing about it that we are most sure it is our town, and some one has suggested that another good name for this place would be "Our Home Town."

Two of Miss Gale's books derive their titles from this village of hers. They are "Friendship Village" and "Friendship Village Love Stories." A short description of her "Friendship Village" will follow later. Another book based upon the village life deals with the lesson of Christmas time. It shows how the older people who have come to feel that they could not afford the expense of Christmas are brought to realize the real significance of Christmas giving.

Another series of stories is linked into book form through the narrator, Calliope Marsh. It is entitled "Mothers to Men," and is an account of life at "Friendship Village."

Miss Gale writes beautiful stories of how to make the better community; but what is more, she does with her own hands many things which bring about the realization of her plans. Women's club of her own city and of many other cities enjoy her aid in their plans for better conditions. Civic federations of statewide influence have her help as member and officer. Further, her own county fair has enjoyed her presence and her efforts to advance civic improvement through her friendly counsel to those who pause to talk with her.

Her writing is here illustrated in part from her recent book, "When I Was a Little Girl." Two of the little girls of the neighborhood had been shut up in their rooms one fine summer day as punishment for the infraction of some home regulation, whereupon a discussion among the free playmates arose as to the reason for punishment. As the discussion waxed perplexing, the little girls happened upon Grandmother Beers, who took up the discussion and enlightened the children. What she had heard of their conversation caused her to break in with the statement, "Wicked? I didn't know you knew such a word." The following discussion then takes place:

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