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Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune

Image of Mary Virginia Hawes TerhuneWriter and homemaker Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune (1830-1922) began her first novel at the age of sixteen.

It was published by her father in 1854 after it was rejected by a formal publisher. Her novel Alone was an immediate success, and when republished two years later it sold more than 100,000 copies.

Terhune’s minister husband Edward Payson Terhune was called to preach in Newark where the couple remained for the next eighteen years. She continued writing despite her home, parish, and civic responsibilities. Terhune served as the President of the Women’s Christian Association of Newark for which she raised money, counseled, and found jobs for poor young women.

A prolific writer, Terhune published fourteen novels between 1857 and 1873. Among her published works was a book entitled Common Sense in the Household. The instructional guide was written in 1871 for the beginner homemaker and launched Terhune’s name to the best-seller list. Her book was translated into French, Spanish, German, and Arabic. Terhune’s success in the homemaker industry encouraged her to publish numerous articles, syndicated columns, and lectures related to household themes. She still believed that women found their highest fulfillment as wives and mothers, but also suggested that these roles should not overshadow active involvement in other positions of power.


Fahs, Alice. “The Woman’s Page.” In Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the 

Making of Modern Public Space, 56-91. Chapel Hill: The University of North 

Carolina Press, 2011.

Hawkesworth, Mary, Lisa Hetfield, Barbara Balliet and Jennifer Morgan. “Femnist Interventions: Creating New Institutional Spaces for Women at Rutgers.” In Doing Diversity in Higher Education: Faculty Leaders Share Challenges and Strategies, edited by Winnifred R. Brown-Glaude. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2008, 137-165. Accessed April 26, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Questions to Explore

What was Terhune’s first novel about? Why was it an immediate success?

How did Terhune inspire and embolden women as homemakers , and powerful women?

How did Terhune find jobs for poor women?

Additional Resources

Wright Mary Hudson. 1934. Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune (“Marion Harland”) : Her Life and Works. Nashville Tenn: George Peabody College for Teachers. https://worldcat.org/title/1006520763.

Frear Sara S. 2007. “‘a Fine View of the Delectable Mountains’ : The Religious Vision of Mary Virginia Terhune and Augusta Jane Evans Wilson.” Dissertation. Auburn University. https://worldcat.org/title/191854855.

Smith Karen Manners. 1994. “Mary Virginia Terhune (Marion Harland): Writer Minister’s Wife and Domestic Expert.” American Presbyterians 111–22. https://worldcat.org/title/5543232435.