Alice Duer Miller (July 28, 1874 - August 22, 1942) was an American writer and poet.
Alice Duer was born in New York, from a wealthy family. At the time of her entrance into society her family lost most of its fortune. She entered Barnard College in 1895 studying mathematics and astronomy (she was a brilliant mathematician). She helped to pay for her studies by selling novels and short essays. She and her sister Caroline published a joint book of poems.
Alice graduated in June 1899 and shortly after married Henry Wise Miller (October 1899) and left with him for Costa Rica, where he was attempting to develop rubber cultivation. This attempt eventually failed; in 1903 she and her husband and young son came back to New York, where they lived for some time with difficulty, he working in the Stock Exchange, she teaching, which she hated. After a time, her husband earned more and she was able to dedicate her working time entirely to writing.
She became known as a campaigner for women's suffrage and published a brilliant series of satirical poems in the New York Tribune. These were published subsequently as Are Women People?. These words became a catchphrase of the suffrage movement. She followed this collection with Women are people! (1917).
As a novelist, she scored her first real success with Come out of the Kitchen in 1916. The story was made into a play and she followed it with a series of other short novels, many of which were staged and (increasingly) made into films. At about the same time, her husband began to make money on the Exchange and their money problems were over.
Her marriage endured to the end of her life, but was not entirely tranquil. Her novel in verse Forsaking All Others (1933) about a tragic love affair, which many consider her greatest work, reflects this, though it is certainly not autobiographical.
In the 1920's and 1930's many of her stories were used for motion pictures, taking her to Hollywood. She also became involved in a number of motion picture screenplays, including Wife vs. Secretary 1936. Her name appears in the very first issue of The New Yorker as an "advisory editor".
In 1940, she wrote the verse novel The White Cliffs. The story is of an American girl who coming to London as a tourist, meets and marries a young upper-class Englishman in the period just before the First World War. The War begins and he goes to the front. He is killed just before the end of the War, leaving her with a young son. Her son is the heir to the family estate. Despite the pull of her own country and the impoverished condition of the estate, she decides to stay and live the traditional life of a member of the English upper class. The story concludes as The Second World War commences and she worries that her son, like his father, will be killed fighting for the country he loves. The poem ends with the lines:
- ...I am American bred
- I have seen much to hate here - much to forgive,
- But in a world in which England is finished and dead,
- I do not wish to live.
The poem was spectacularly successful on both sides of the Atlantic, selling eventually approaching a million copies - an unheard of number for a book of verse. It was broadcast and the story was made into a film. Like her earlier suffrage poems, it had a significant effect on American public opinion and it was one of the influences leading the United States to enter the War.
Alice Duer Miller died in 1942, and was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown, New Jersey.
The main works of Alice Duer Miller are as listed below. (e-book) marks the books that are freely available from Project Gutenberg in electronic format. Links to other works on the net are also shown :
- Poems (1896)
- Modern Obstacle (1903)
- The Blue Arch (1910)
- Things (1914)
- Are Women People? (1915) (e-book)
- Come Out of the Kitchen (1916)
- Women Are People! (1917)
- Ladies Must Live (1917) (e-book)
- The Happiest Time of Their Lives (1918) (e-book)
- Wings in the night (1918)
- The Charm School (1919)
- The Beauty and the Bolshevist (1920) (e-book)
- Priceless Pearl (1924)
- The Reluctant Duchess (1925)
- Forsaking All Others (1931) (link)
- Gowns by Roberta (1933)
- The Rising Star (1935)
- And One Was beautiful (1937)
- The White Cliffs (1940) (link)
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