Rebecca Blaine Harding Davis (1831-1910; born Rebecca Blaine Harding) was an American author and journalist. She is deemed a pioneer of literary Realism in American literature. Her most important literary work is the novella Life in the Iron Mills published in the April 1861 edition of the Atlantic Monthly. Throughout her lifetime, Harding Davis sought to effect social change for blacks, women, Native Americans, immigrants, and the working class, by intentionally writing about these marginalised groups' plight in the 19th century.
Rebecca Blaine Harding was born to Richard and Rachel Leet Wilson Harding in Washington, Pennsylvania on June 24, 1831. After an unsuccessful entrepreneurial spell in Big Spring, Alabama, the family finally settled in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1836. Wheeling's rapid transformation into a factory town in the first half of the nineteenth century profoundly affected the themes and the vision of Davis's later fiction.
When she was 14, she was sent back to Washington, Pennsylvania, to attend the Washington Female Seminary, from where she graduated as class valedictorian in 1848. After returning to Wheeling, she joined the staff of the local newspaper, the Intelligencer, submitting reviews, stories, poems, and editorials, and also serving briefly as an editor in 1859.
Life in the Iron Mills, published in the Atlantic Monthly in April 1861, is regarded by many critics as a pioneering document marking the transition from Romanticism to Realism in American literature. The successful publication of the short story also provided her with acclaim in the literary circles of her time.
On her journey back from a meeting with her publisher, James Fields, Rebecca met L. Clarke Davis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whom she married on March 5, 1863. The following year she gave birth to their first son, Richard Harding Davis, who was to become a writer and journalist himself. Their second son, Charles Belmont, was born in 1866; their daughter, Nora, in 1872.
From 1869 onwards, Rebecca Harding Davis was a regular contributing editor to the New York Tribune and the New York Independent. In 1889, however, she resigned from the Tribune in order to protest editorial censorship of her articles.
On September 29, 1910, Rebecca Harding Davis died of a stroke at her son Richard's house in Mt. Kisco, New York.