Image of Mary Jane Holmes


Lifetime: 1825 - 1907 Passed: ≈ 116 years ago




United States

Mary Jane Holmes

Mary Jane Holmes was an American author who published 39 novels, as well as short stories. Her first novel sold 250,000 copies; and she had total sales of 2 million books in her lifetime, second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Mary Jane Hawes was born in Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1825, the fifth of Fanny (Olds) and Preston Hawes' nine children. The household was economically modest, but the parents encouraged intellectual endeavor. She may also have been influenced by her uncle, Rev. Joel Hawes (1789-1867), for many years minister at the First Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut, and known for his published sermons and other writings. Preston Hawes died when Mary Jane was 12 and she started teaching school at 13. Interested in writing from an early age, she published her first story at 15.

On August 9, 1849, Hawes married Daniel Holmes, a graduate of Yale College from New York City. They moved for a time to Versailles, Kentucky in the Bluegrass Region, where they both taught for a few years. These were formative years, as Holmes used the small-town, rural setting and people she knew as inspiration for her first novel and others set in the antebellum South.

In 1852 the Holmes family returned to New York and settled in Brockport, a short distance west of Rochester, where Daniel read law and was ultimately admitted to the bar. He went into practice and also served in local politics. They had no children. Holmes' supportive marriage was one she used as a model for several portrayed in her novels.

Holmes died in 1907, at the age of 82, in Brockport. Her obituary was published a few days later in the Nation, reflecting her stature. Long excluded from literary histories of the nineteenth century written by men, the author was reappraised by scholars in the late 20th and early 21st century, who recognized her achievements and the value of her work.

Books by Mary Jane Holmes

Cousin Maude Cover image

Cousin Maude

Romance Fiction
Marriage Romantic Love Death

When Matilda's husband James dies, she marries rich Dr. Kennedy thinking he will provide a good home for her daughter Maude. However, the doctor is a miser and assumes that Matty will be his housekeeper. They have a little boy who is crippled and the...

Maggie Miller Cover image

Maggie Miller

Family Drama Love Independence Death Loyalty Freedom Struggle Classics

The story follows the life of a young woman named Maggie Miller who, after the death of her parents, is taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle. Maggie's life is turned upside down when she falls in love with a man who is beneath her social status, le...

Bessie's Fortune Cover image

Bessie's Fortune

Romance Fiction Novel
Morality Redemption Virtue Integrity Determination Betrayal social commentary Resilience Loyality Suspicious

This Book is a captivating tale set in the quaint town of Brookside. Within its idyllic streets, a web of secrets and scandals awaits, promising to unravel the lives of its inhabitants. When Bessie Lane, a modest and virtuous young woman, receives an...

Tempest and Sunshine Cover image

Tempest and Sunshine

Tempest and Sunshine is the first book written by Mary Jane Holmes. Set in the pre-Civil War south, it follows the struggles and romances of two sisters, as different as night and day; blonde Fanny and dark haired Julia. (Introduction by jedopi)

Gretchen Cover image


Rich and sophisticated Arthur Tracy returns to Tracy Park after several years abroad confused and mentally unstable. Initially claiming that Gretchen accompanied him on the boat and train back he then expects her to arrive at any moment. Meanwhile a...

Lena Rivers Cover image

Lena Rivers

If you're a fan of mid-19th Century melodramas with many twists and turns you will love this book. Acclaimed as Holmes greatest commercial success the charming heroine of this tale is Lena Rivers whose mother died when she was a baby. The father is u...

Rose Mather: A Tale Cover image

Rose Mather: A Tale

Fiction merges with history in this novel taking place during the turbulent times of the civil war and the horrors it entailed. Holme's silly, coquettish yet kind-hearted Rose will pull you in from the start. The sweet and pious Annie, the noble Tom...

Chateau d'Or Cover image

Chateau d'Or

The Chateau D'Or, or The Castle of Gold, looked gloomy and gray from the train rattling through the French countryside from Paris to Marseilles. How did it get its grand name? Stories and legends abound, but this is just one as related by two interes...