19th-century Brattleboro author to be honored with marker

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BRATTLEBORO — When the Brattleboro Literary Festival kicks off next weekend, it will honor the legacy of the town's literary past, and one of its most acclaimed authors.

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, the West Brattleboro Association, in conjunction with the Brattleboro Words Project and Brattleboro Literary Festival, will unveil a historic marker commemorating four historic schools that stood near the current site of the present-day Academy School, and local author Mary Wilkins Freeman.

Freeman (1852-1930) was repeatedly voted the most popular female author during the 19th century. Best known for her short stories, she published over 250 in her lifetime. Freeman spent a significant part of her life in Brattleboro, and credited Brattleboro for its influence on her writing and success. During her time here, Freeman attended the Glenwood Ladies Seminary, one of the four schools being commemorated with the historic marker.

The marker will have one side dedicated to the schools — Brattleborough Academy, Glenwood Classical Seminary, Glenwood Ladies Seminary and the old Academy School (torn down in 1957) — and the other dedicated to Freeman.

"We were planning a marker for the schools and were pleased to learn about Mary Wilkins Freeman's connection," said Michael Bosworth of the West Brattleboro Association. "It is great to bring students and the public to recognize this important history. The Glenwood Ladies Seminary may have been the most interesting of the 4 schools. It was a 19th century example of a private secondary boarding school for females, and in 1860 its first class had 128 students from nine states plus Constantinople."

The State of Vermont approved and funded the new historic marker, and Brattleboro's Department of Public Works is installing it.

Freeman is one of the writers with a history in Brattleboro being celebrated at this years' festival, along with Rudyard Kipling, who wrote "The Jungle Book" while living in Dummerston. Brent Kendrick, a scholar on Freeman's life and works, will give a brief address. Local alumni of the old Academy School will also share a few words on their experiences there and their family connections to the other schools at the site.

The Brattleboro Literary Festival will continue that evening at 7 pm at Brooks Memorial Library with talks by Brent Kendrick, author of "Infant Sphinx: The Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman" and Christopher Benfey, author of "If: The Untold Story of Kipling's American Years." They will discuss the lives of both authors, and how they knew each other.

For more about Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, the Brattleboro Words Project, and other Freeman-related events, visit: brattleborowords.org

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