Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy birthday, Anna Katharine Green.

Anna Katharine Green—a pioneering and hugely popular mystery author in her day for numerous works including The Leavenworth Case (1878); The Doctor, His Wife and the Clock (1895); and The Golden Slipper and Other Problems for Violet Strange (1915)—was born today in Brooklyn in 1846. She graduated from Ripley College (VT) in 1866, making her one of the earliest female college graduates in the United States. In 1884, she married actor Charles Rohlfs, who later designed a successful line of furniture.

The Leavenworth Case sold more than a million copies in Green's lifetime and was studied at Yale Law School for its treatment of circumstantial evidence. Green introduced spinster detective Amelia Butterworth in That Affair Next Door (1897), who is often considered a prototype of Christie's Miss Marple. Green died in 1935.

Her son Roland Rohlfs (1892–1974; shown at left) became a test pilot for Curtiss and broke several aviation records.

"Crime must touch our imagination by showing people, like ourselves, but incredibly transformed by some overwhelming motive."—Anna Katharine Green, "Why Human Beings Are Interested in Crime," American Magazine 87 (Feb. 1919): 3839, 8286. Qtd. in Barbara Ryan, "Anna Katharine Green," Nineteenth-Century American Fiction Writers. Detroit: Gale, 1999.

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