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Navy Veteran Jerri Bell Presents WWI Navy Yeoman (F) First Class Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Writing Advice, Writing Life
Jerri Bell introduces the undiscovered richness of Douglas' long life (she died at 108!) as a prolific writer, Naval servicewoman in WWI, and political activist
Marjory Stoneman Douglas as a young woman (undated). Credit: Marjory Stoneman papers, Special Collections, University of Miami LibrariesHer short stories weren't bad, Marjory Stoneman Douglas said in her autobiography, Voice of the River, "but they weren't the newfangled concise dramatic short stories of the Hemingway school. Though many of the men who'd served in the First World War had been prepared for that kind of Hemingway writing, I was not a part of it. I didn't subscribe to the Hemingway thinking. I was more or less tied into the mainstream from which Hemingway was estranged. I couldn't write in that bare, stark way in which a story begins like a slap in the face."
Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1987. Credit: Mary Lou Foy/The Miami Herald This may be one of the reasons that Douglas is not counted among the "war writers" of World War I despite a distinguished literary record and her use of characters, settings, and anecdotes from her experiences during the war in her fiction.
Douglas was already living an unconventional life at the beginning of the war. A 1912 graduate of Wellesley, she married a con artist thirty years her senior and divorced him a year later when her father uncovered details of his financial fraud and forgery. In 1915 she moved to the then-small backwater town of Miami, Florida and became the society editor for her father's newspaper, the News Record (later the Miami Herald). Sent to cover the story of the first woman in Miami to become a Yeoman (Female) when the Navy first opened enlistment to women, Douglas ended up taking her place. "I arrived at the ship and the next thing I knew I was sticking up my hand, swearing to protect and defend the United States of America from all enemies whatsoever. I guess they talked me into it." The recruiters, she said, "came on very strong."
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