This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for July 1, 2017: Renaming the Planets

July 1, 2017: birthday: Jean Stafford

It’s the birthday of novelist Jean Stafford (books by this author), born in Covina, California (1915). When she was six years old, her father lost most of the family’s money on the stock market. They moved to Boulder, Colorado, where they lived in poverty. Despite their money troubles, her father spent all his time writing, though he only sold one book. They survived by taking in sorority girls as boarders.

After college, Stafford began dating a young poet named Robert Lowell. He was unknown at the time, but would go on to be one of the most important poets of his generation. He asked her to marry him, even though his aristocratic family disapproved of her. Stafford was still trying to make up her mind when she and Lowell got into a serious car accident. He had been driving drunk and was unhurt, but she was disfigured in the accident and had to have reconstructive facial surgery. She sued him for damages, but also accepted his proposal. They got married in 1940.

In 1944, she published her first novel, Boston Adventure, about a poor girl who escapes her working-class town to work for a wealthy lady from Boston. It was a best-seller, but soon after its publication, her marriage to Lowell fell apart. She wrote several more novels, including The Mountain Lion (1947) and The Catherine Wheel (1952), but they didn’t make her any money. She struggled with alcoholism and supported herself by selling short stories to The New Yorker magazine. When she published Collected Stories of Jean Stafford in 1969, it won the Pulitzer Prize. Stafford died 10 years later, and left her entire estate to her cleaning woman.