June 24, 1831: Rebecca Harding Davis Born

Author Rebecca Harding Davis

Author Rebecca Harding Davis was born in Pennsylvania on June 24, 1831. She and her family moved to Wheeling about 1836, and she later wrote for the Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper. During the 1860s, she published a number of stories and serialized novels in the Atlantic Monthly.

Her best-known story, “Life in the Iron Mills: A Story of Today” powerfully depicts the plight of mill workers in a town based on Wheeling. Her first two novels focused on worker exploitation and moral and political conflicts raised by the Civil War.

Davis wrote for the New York Tribune for 20 years, breaking ties after advertisers pressured the paper to end her series exposing industrial problems. One of her best novels, John Andross, attacked the city’s politically corrupt Boss Tweed. Many of her later works addressed the conflict of combining her personal and professional lives. Davis’s last book was her autobiography, published in her 70s. She died in Mount Kisko, New York, at age 79.

Ignored by literary critics for much of the past century, Rebecca Harding Davis is now recognized for her role in developing realistic fiction.