Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (August 8, 1896 – December 14, 1953) was an American author who lived in rural Florida and wrote novels with rural themes and settings. Her best known work, The Yearling, about a boy who adopts an orphaned fawn, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939 and was later made into a movie, also known as The Yearling.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was born in 1896 in Washington, DC. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a degree in English in 1918, then married Charles Rawlings, also a writer, in 1919. The couple moved to Louisville, Kentucky and then Rochester, New York, where they both worked as journalists for various newspapers. In 1928, with a small inheritance from her mother, the Rawlingses purchased a 72 acre (290,000 mē) orange grove near Hawthorne, Florida, in a hamlet named Cross Creek for its location between Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake. She brought the place to international fame through her writing.
She was fascinated with the remote wilderness and the lives of the Florida Crackers. Wary at first, the local residents soon warmed to her and opened up their lives and experiences to her. Marjorie filled several notebooks with descriptions.
Her first novel, South Moon Under, was published in 1933. The book captured of the richness of Cross Creek and its environs. That same year, she and her husband were divorced. One of her least well received books, Golden Apples, came out in 1935. But, she struck gold in 1938 with The Yearling.
Her editor was the legendary Maxwell Perkins of Scribner’s. Over the years, she built friendships with fellow writers Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost and Margaret Mitchell. Marjorie also became a civil rights advocate and befriended and corresponded with Mary McLeod Bethune and Zora Neale Hurston. She described her African-American employee Idella as "the perfect maid." Their relationship is described in the book Idella: Marjorie Rawlings' "Perfect Maid", by Idella Parker and Mary Keating.
With money she made from The Yearling, Rawlings bought a beach cottage at Crescent Beach, ten miles south of St. Augustine. In 1941 she married Ocala hotelier Norton Baskin, and he remodeled an old mansion into the Castle Warden Hotel in St. Augustine. After World War II, he sold the hotel and managed the Dolphin Restaurant at Marineland, which was then Florida's number one tourist attraction. Rawlings and Baskin made their primary home at Crescent Beach.
Sued for libel for her book Cross Creek, by her former friend Zelma Cason, Rawlings never wrote another book about Florida, but she did write a final novel, The Sojourner, with a northern setting. In order to absorb the natural setting so vital to her writing, she bought an old farmhouse in Van Hornesville, New York and spent part of each year there until her death.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings died in 1953 in St. Augustine of a cerebral hemorrhage. She bequeathed most of her property to the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she taught creative writing in Anderson Hall. In return, her name was given to a new dormotory dedicated in 1958 as Rawlings Hall which occupies prime real estate in the heart of campus. Her land at Cross Creek is now the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park.
Norton Baskin survived her by 44 years, passing away in 1997. They are buried side-by-side at Antioch Cemetery near Island Grove, Florida. Rawlings' tombstone, with Baskin's inscription, reads "Through her writing she endeared herself to the people of the world."
As a pioneer environmentalist, an independent woman, and a supporter of civil rights at a time when few white southerners were willing to take that stand, Rawlings' reputation has managed to outlive those of many of her contemporaries. A posthumously-published children's book, The Secret River, won a Newbery Honor in 1956, and movies were made, long after her death, of her story Gal Young 'Un, and her semi-fictionalized memoir Cross Creek (Norton Baskin, then in his eighties, made a cameo appearance in the latter movie).