July 29, 1918: Novelist Mary Lee Settle Born in Charleston

Blood Tie

Novelist Mary Lee Settle was born in Charleston on July 29, 1918. During World War II, she served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She later wrote movingly about this time in her book All the Brave Promises. After the war, Settle worked as an editor and taught fiction writing at Bard College and at the University of Virginia. Even though Settle spent most of her adult life outside West Virginia, her work often drew inspiration from her family’s deep roots in the Mountain State, including ancestors who’d settled in eastern Kanawha County in the 1840s.

Her literary reputation rests on the Beulah Quintet. These five historical novels trace West Virginia’s story from the appearance of the first white people in the 1750s to the present. O Beulah Land, the first and best known of these works, focuses on the early settlement of Canona, a fictionalized Charleston.

Settle was a prolific writer the rest of her life. In 1978, her novel Blood Tie won the National Book Award for Fiction, and her autobiography was published when she was 81. Mary Lee Settle died in 2005 at age 87.