Mary Johnston (November 21, 1870 – May 9, 1936) was an American novelist and women's rights advocate.
The daughter of an American Civil War soldier who became a successful lawyer, Mary Johnston was born in the small town of Buchanan, Virginia. A small and frail girl, she was educated at home by family and tutors. She grew up with a love of books and was financially independent enough to devote herself to writing.
Johnston wrote historical books and novels that often combined romance with history. Her first book Prisoners of Hope (1898) dealt with colonial times in Virginia as did her second novel To Have and to Hold (1900) and 1904's Sir Mortimer. The Goddess of Reason (1907) uses the theme of the French Revolution and in Lewis Rand (1908), the author portrayed political life at the dawn of the 19th century.
To Have and to Hold was serialized in the The Atlantic Monthly in 1899 and published in 1900 by Houghton Mifflin. The book proved enormously popular and according to the New York Times was the bestselling novel in the United States in 1900. Johnston's next work titled Audrey was the 5th bestselling book in the U.S. in 1902, as was Sir Mortimer in 1904. Beyond her native America, Johnston's novels were also very popular in Canada and in England.
Three of Johnston's books were adapted to film. Audrey was made into a silent film of the same name in 1916 and her blockbuster work To Have and to Hold was made into a silent film in 1918 and again in 1922. Pioneers of the Old South was adapted to film in 1923 under the title Jamestown.
During her long career, in addition to twenty-three novels, Johnston wrote a number of short stories, one drama, and two long narrative poems. She used her fame to advocate women's rights, strongly supporting the women's suffrage movement.
On her passing in 1936, Mary Johnston was interred in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.
The tobacco-roller and his son pitched their camp beneath a gum tree upon the edge of the wood. It was October, and the gum was the colour of blood. Behind it rolled the autumn forest; before it stretched a level of broom-sedge, bright ochre in the light of the setting sun. The road ran across this golden plain, and disappeared in a league-deep wood of pine. From an invisible clearing came a cawing of crows. The sky was cloudless, and the evening wind had not begun to blow. The small, shining leaves of the gum did not stir, and the flame of the camp-fire rose straight as a lance. The tobacco cask, transfixed by the trunk of a young oak and drawn by strong horses, had come to rest upon the turf by the roadside. Gideon Rand unharnessed the team, and from the platform built in the front of the cask took fodder for the horses, then tossed upon the grass a bag of meal, a piece of bacon, and a frying-pan. The boy collected the dry wood with which the earth was strewn, then struck flint and steel, guarded the spark within the tinder, fanned the flame, and with a sigh of satisfaction stood back from the leaping fire. His father tossed him a bucket, and with it swinging from his hand, he made through the wood towards a music of water. Goldenrod and farewell-summer and the red plumes of the sumach lined his path, while far overhead the hickories and maples reared a fretted, red-gold roof. Underfoot were moss and coloured leaves, and to the right and left the squirrels watched him with bright eyes. He found the stream where it rippled between banks of fern and mint. As he knelt to fill the pail, the red haw and the purple ironweed met above his head.
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