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Gene Stratton-Porter was a woman of contrasts, contradictions, and strong emotions. Living at a time when women generally stayed at home, she was a self-trained writer, naturalist, and photographer. She wrote to her future husband strongly condemning confining marriages, yet expressed pride in her family roles and later provided for her extended family. She became very rich through hard work; she spent that money to achieve her dreams and was generous to others. Millions of copies of her novels were sold, but critics did not take them seriously.
Mrs. Porter's writings made her a very public person, but she regretted her loss of privacy. She expressed enormous confidence in her own abilities and purposes, but she expressed also her fear of failure. She was untiring in her efforts to observe and document nature, but the scientific community ignored her.
She wanted to be independent--intellectually and physically--and determined that writing was the means to assure both. Essential to that independence was her relationship to the natural settings where she lived. She also had a strong desire to instill her love of nature in others in order to improve their lives and preserve the natural world.
This issue of The Indiana Historian provides only a brief introduction to Gene Stratton-Porter, generally using her own words. The timeline throughout the issue provides the broader context of her life and times.
We hope that our readers will delve deeper into Mrs. Porter's work, which is her legacy to Indiana and the world.
Limberlost State Historic Site, Geneva, and Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, Rome City, memorialize her life and accomplishments in Indiana.
A note on names
Gene Stratton-Porter was born Geneva Grace Stratton. She published as Gene Stratton-Porter, but she referred to herself, and was most frequently referred to, as Mrs. Porter. We use Gene Stratton-Porter and Mrs. Porter in our text. We use Gene in the timeline. Quotations and titles contain original spelling.
Mrs. Porter built two Limberlost Cabins. The first in Geneva is now Limberlost State Historic Site. The second on Sylvan Lake, Rome City, was part of a property she named Wildflower Woods. The Rome City home is now Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site.