100 Years. 100 Books. #10 – 1917


Daughter of the Morning by Zona Gale

I was eager to read this story because I had was intrigued by a biographical sketch of Zona Gale’s I’d found in a reference book in the Central Literature Division. Gale was an early proponent of rights for women, participating in the National Women’s Party and the Lucy Stone League, and specialized in writing about strong women who overcame traditional roles and made their own opportunities.

Daughter of the Morning is an example of Gale’s descriptive writing about the lack of opportunities afforded to women in the early 20th century. The story opens with Cossy, a young woman just out of teens and stuck living on a farm with her parents and brothers, who all seem unhappy with their lot in life. She’s creating a book out of wrapping paper, someplace she can write down her thoughts. Cossy frets about what to do with her life. She has no particular ambition, except not to turn out like her mother and father, who scream at each other constantly. In the opening chapters, she reluctantly agrees to marry Luke, a neighbor who says “she’s got to marry somebody” and why not him?

The morning after she agrees to marry Luke, she meets a stranger on the road as she’s walking at dawn, enjoying her solitude. That meeting opens a whole new world of ideas to Cossy, who within the day, has decided to leave the farm and move to the city to find her way. She eventually finds a job in a factory, where she becomes involved with workers rights. The story is a string of adventures experienced by Cossy in the big city, which all lead back to the farm and home.

What I find particularly interesting about the women’s fiction of this time period is the reach into independent living, which fires much of this story, but the eventual return to the status quo of the male hero “rescuing” the female protagonist in the final chapter by clasping her tightly to his broad chest and declaring that he has been hopelessly in love with her for the whole book and won’t she please marry him and make his life complete? Not unlike a Harlequin romance novel of today.

Daughter of the Morning is at best a pleasant if uninspiring read.

3 out of 5 catalog cards