Texas Woman of Letters, Karle Wilson Baker
Texas History - Women's Studies
6 x 9, 256 pp.
7 b&w photos., 4 drawings., 1 illus.
Pub Date: 10/25/2005
Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce
Price:        $34.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Texas Woman of Letters, Karle Wilson Baker

By Sarah Ragland Jackson

Karle Wilson Baker was the best-known Texas poet of the early twentieth century. Yet, while many of her male contemporaries remain well known to Texas literature, she is not. Her energy and significant role in shaping the literature of Texas equaled those of Walter Prescott Webb or J. Frank Dobie, with whom she ranked as the first Fellows of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Her modern lifestyle as an independent, “new” woman and her active career as a writer, teacher, and lecturer placed her among the avant-garde of women in the nation, although she lived in the small town of Nacogdoches. She was a multi-talented writer with a wide range of interests, yet she championed Texas and the history and natural beauty of East Texas above all else.

Sarah R. Jackson’s thoroughly researched biography of Karle Wilson Baker introduces her to a new generation. Baker’s life also opens a window onto the literary times in which she lived and particularly the path of a woman making her way in the largely male-dominated world of nationally acclaimed writers.

Beyond the literary insights this book offers, Jackson spotlights developments in East Texas such as the discovery of oil and the founding of what would become Stephen F. Austin State University in Baker’s hometown. Extensive work in a number of regional and state archives and interviews with many who remembered Baker allow Jackson to offer an account that is not only thorough but also lively and entertaining.

Sarah R. Jackson is a retired faculty member of the Department of English at Stephen F. Austin State University. A graduate of Baylor University, she received a Master’s degree from Southern Methodist University and has done postgraduate studies at the University of North Carolina and Oxford University.

What Readers Are Saying:

“And this book is a marvel, not to be missed.” --The Gilmer Mirror

“…biography, literary analysis, and tribute, all in one, and all done well.” --East Texas Historical Association

“Jackson’s biography is meticulously researched, and it benefits from numerous oral interviews, as well as the access she gained to privately held family papers…Jackson’s research offeres unique insights…” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“…carefully researched and absorbing biography…” --Journal of Southern History

“At the age of eight years, Karle Wilson announced her decision to become an author. Many years later, looking back over her long and fruitful literary career, Karle Wilson Baker remarked; ‘I am just a writing person.’ I Am Just a Writing Person: A Biography of Karle Wilson Baker by Sara Jackson gives us a charming, as well as an informative account of the author’s writing career. We are invited to enjoy such diverse literary works as The Garden of Plynck: A Fantasy for Children, Family Style: A Novel of the East Texas Oil Field, and Star of the Wilderness, a novel of early Texas adventure. However, Mrs. Baker’s fame has resulted not only in recognition of her own literary achievements but also in her influence in the cultural and literary activities of the southwest.” --Charlotte Baker Montgomery

“. . . exceptionally well researched . . . a very useful and interesting addition to the history of women writers and to the literary history of Texas.” —Lou Halsell Rodenberger, McMurry University (Retired) --Archie P. McDonald, Regent’s Professor of History
“Karle Wilson Baker was a leading Texas woman of letters and the woman of letters in East Texas during the 1920s and 1930s. Living only a stone’s throw from Baker’s beloved Tanglewood, Sarah Jackson just naturally absorbed the vibes yet resonating in Old Nacogdoches from this extraordinary literary figure and naturalist. Learning about Baker’s remarkable life and career through Jackson’s delicate hand is a joy.” --Archie P. McDonald, Regent’s Professor of History

“Apparently Karle Wilson Baker was either too modest or too much occupied with other projects to write her memoirs. But that void has been filled for us by Sarah Ragland Jackson’s insightfully written biography. Of as been observed, good biography is information made illumination, Mrs. Jackson’s meticulous researcher involving primary sources, journals, family papers, interviews with her subject’s family and acquaintances, and the examination of historical and literary records has resulted in a compilation both enlightening and engaging. This book preserves for us many of Karle Wilson Baker’s voices of human experience and our debt to Mrs. Jackson in considerable; so worthy a literary life needed extensive investigation and revelation.” --Gayle D. Wyatt, Retired Associate Director, Phi Theta Kappa, Former Academic

“Why has Karle Wilson Baker, arguably Texas’ outstanding poet in the first part of the twentieth century as well as outstanding novelist and essayist, fallen from memory? In this literary biography Sarah Ragland Jackson offers no definitive answer, but through an artful selection from Baker’s writings, placed in the context of her busy life as wife, mother, and college teacher, shows the she deserves a permanent place in the state’s literary pantheon. In her words Baker was ‘A women with a bird, a book, a flower,/ Who, sifting life, has kept the quiet part...’ Her drive to write made her a women ahead of her time, this biography amply demonstrates. It shows, too, how Baker drew universal messages that are rooted in the sense of place she derived from the piney woods of East Texas.” --Sarah L. Greene, past president


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