Housewife Writes Pulitzer-Nominated Novel While Raising Family, Remodeling Kitchen

March 22, 1942, Nellise Child

March 22, 1942: Until this morning, I had never heard of Nellise Child (and I dare say most people haven’t) but I was immediately enchanted with her story: A former reporter (her husband didn’t want her to work), she raises a child, remodels the kitchen and – for five years – retreats to her backyard writing shack to produce an acclaimed novel that was nominated for a Pulitzer.

And no, she didn’t win (that was “In This Our Life” by Ellen Glasgow), but that’s beside the point. Who is this woman and why is it so hard to find out anything about her?

The Times clips show that she had written a couple of popular mysteries before “Wolf”: “Murder Comes Home” (1933) and “The Diamond Ransom Murders” (1934), which The Times compared to “The Thin Man”

March 22, 1942: Nellise Child

Nov. 9, 1941, Wolf on the Fold

She also wrote a play, “Weep for the Virgins,” that received an unflattering review:

Dec. 9, 1935, Nellise Child

The only other reference I can find in The Times is a 1959 story noting that she wrote a comedy titled “Bird of Time” that was staged in Miami.

Bookfinder adds another novel: “If I Come Home,” 1943.

A 1981 obituary in the New York Times gives her name as Nellise Child Rosenfeld and lists the plays “Sister Oakes,” “The Happy Ending” and “After the Gleaners.”

You’re probably wondering how her books hold up. So am I. There is one copy of “Wolf on the Fold” and “If I Come Home” at the Los Angeles Public Library – and neither of them are circulating copies. So it appears I’ll be adding the works of Nellise Child to the Zombie Reading List, a wonderful concept begun by Mary McCoy and Brady Potts.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1942, Books and Authors, Stage and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Housewife Writes Pulitzer-Nominated Novel While Raising Family, Remodeling Kitchen

  1. The era where we realized the power of women’s rights at least doubled the effective creativity of the human race almost overnight. How cool was that?

  2. dewey webb says:

    Don’t know what the ground rules were back in 1942, but as recently as the early 1990′s, any writer could submit anything (if they filled out correct paperwork) and claim they were a “Pultizer Prize nominee.” With no disrespect to Child, that might have been the case here–according to the article, she was “nominated” by own publisher, who had nothing to lose except cost of entry fee.

    Once worked with self-important writer who never failed to mention he was a Pultizer nominee (he had entered his own stuff)–which, while essentially true–was also very misleading to anyone unfamiliar with rules. Needless to say, he did not win.

    Perhaps to put an end to this type of puffery, Pulitzer Prize web site now defines initial submissions as “entrants,” with the term “nominee” being reserved for contenders whose work is among a much smaller pool of potential winners determined by judges.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulitzer_Prize

  3. brian says:

    http://www.regrouptheatre.org/Book2.html
    Weep for the Virgins by Nellise Child in print for the 1st time

  4. Adam Selzer says:

    I’ve actually been looking up information on her for ages without knowing it! In the early 20s she was a big mover an shaker in the Chicago bohemian/flapper scene under the name Lillian Collier; she ran a bohemian tea room called the Wind Blew Inn that was raided by the cops; a judge sentenced her to read a book of fairy tales to cure her bohemianism. I couldn’t for the life of me find out what happened to her after about 1925 until today when I located her father’s draft card, which led me to some of her other names.

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