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Lost Writer Wednesday

Dorothy Thomas
Dorothy Thomas at Typewriter

This post is part of our Lost Writer Wednesdays blog series, an eight-week series and companion to NETNebraska’s Lost Writers of the Plains radio programming. Each week, we’ll spotlight long-forgotten writers once published in the early days of Prairie Schooner. For the full multi-media experience, download the iBook in the iTunes store.

by Alex Douglas

Born in 1898 in Kansas, Dorothy Thomas grew up as one of ten children to a simple minister and his wife. After the death of her father, Thomas and the rest of her family relocated to Nebraska where she took the role as breadwinner for her family and obtained her teaching certificate at the age of sixteen. It was through her position as a teacher that Thomas was able to come up with the storyline of “The Steckley Girls,” launching her somewhat controversial career of writing.

From “Frost in the Morning” to “The Jeeter Girls,” Thomas wrote about women doing things they simply weren’t supposed to do. A mother flees her small town, leaving her children behind. A couple have sex in the adjacent apartment. Propriety was all but thrown out of the window when it came to Thomas’s writing material. Dorothy Thomas believed in “self-reliant but flawed women” and it was with her “wild and wooly” ways that she was able get published in the nation’s best literary magazines, receive praise from H.L. Mencken and New York Times editor Harold Ross, and be compared favorably to Willa Cather. Thomas was published in Prairie Schooner in 1927 with her story “The Beast Room,” and a couple of years later decided to quit teaching to become a full time writer. Then she developed her writing to better attract the masses.

While Thomas faced many struggles in her life, nothing quite measured up to the stroke she suffered after receiving a bad review of her writing. Although Thomas’s work never made her famous, her writing portrayed women as authentic, humorous, and wonderfully flawed human beings. For that, she will be immortalized as one of the “Lost Writers of the Plains.”

 


Lost Writers of the Plains is a collaboration between Prairie Schooner, the Center for Great Plains Studies, and NET Nebraska. To read Thomas's story, "The Beast Room" from the PS archive, click here. For more on Thomas and her life, click here. To view the entire Lost Writers of the Plains project, visit the NET Nebraska website.