Shame the Devil
A biographical novel about the life of Fanny Fern, writer, feminist, journalist and mother, Shame the Devil tells the true story of a bold and inspiring 19th century woman who was ahead of her time. Her contemporaries as mentioned in the novel included Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Louisa Jacobs, and Catharine Beecher.
Sara Payton Willis took the pen name “Fanny Fern” to protect her anonymity. She married Nathaniel Willis at an early age but was left heartbroken when her husband died suddenly, leaving her with two small children. Her second marriage was a tragic disaster to an abusive man, and her decision to abandon the union was a bold step. She lived in abject poverty and regrettably agonized over what became a painful decision to leave one of her daughters with her in-laws.
Her circumstances were so desperate in 1851 that she believed she had lost just about everything. Memories of her mother gave her the inspiration to write, and her situation soon turned around. Fern wrote for about 20 years for the New York Ledger, covering the wide range of social injustices within her purview. Outspoken and quick-witted, her unique writing style was read by men and women. Her true identity was an allure and caused much speculation. She outsold Harriet Beecher Stowe; her fame was widespread.
The title of Brenegan’s book comes from Fern’s credo: “Speak the truth, and shame the devil.” Snippets from her published writing introduce each chapter, providing a close look at her mind. Debra Brenegan will undoubtedly receive high praise for her superb portrait of Fanny Fern. Readers will gain an insightful look at this overlooked author and her firsthand account of American society during her time.