8.25.2009

Edith Franklin Wyatt was born in Tomah, Wisconsin in 1873 but lived almost her entire life in Chicago. Her father was a railroad and mining engineer and her mother a published poet, so her early years engendered many interests. After two years at Bryn Mawr College, 1892-1894, and five years of teaching at a local girls' school, Wyatt's first publication in 1900 was entitled "Three Stories of Contemporary Chicago." This work was greatly admired by William Dean Howells, who became her friend and literary champion.

During the century's first decade, while teaching at Hull House and being active in The Little Room, Wyatt produced her best fiction, including short stories in Every One His Own Way (1901) and her first novel True Love (1903). At the same time she began to produce work that reflected her commitment to social causes and she became in great demand as a social commentator and Progressive activist, writing on themes of working-class women, child labor, stockyard animal abuses and other societal problems she observed in Chicago. Although she continued to write stories and poetry, and was one of the founders of Poetry magazine, Wyatt's talents were best displayed in her articles in newspapers and magazines based on civic and social investigations, many of which were assigned by McClure's Magazine. Her first success in this vein was her report of the Cherry Mine Disaster in the Illinois coal fields, and she continued throughout her life to demonstrate her concerns with social issues and human welfare.

Wyatt had friendships with many outstanding people of her day, including William Dean Howells and his daughter. Through her work she was acquainted with Jane Addams, Janet Ayer Fairbank, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Henry B. Fuller, Vachel Lindsay, John T. McCutcheon, Edgar Lee Masters, Theodore Roosevelt, Karl Shapiro, Ida Tarbell, Booth Tarkington and Edmund Wilson. Wyatt, who never married, died in Chicago in 1958.

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