Image of Mary MacLane


Lifetime: 1881 - 1929 Passed: ≈ 94 years ago




United States, Canada

Mary MacLane

Mary MacLane was a controversial Canadian-born American writer whose frank memoirs helped usher in the confessional style of autobiographical writing. MacLane was known as the "Wild Woman of Butte".

MacLane was a very popular author for her time, scandalizing the populace with her shocking bestselling first memoir and to a lesser extent her two following books. She was considered wild and uncontrollable, a reputation she nurtured, and was openly bisexual as well as a vocal feminist. In her writings, she compared herself to another frank young memoirist, Marie Bashkirtseff, who died a few years after MacLane was born and H. L. Mencken called her "the Butte Bashkirtseff."

MacLane was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1881, but her family moved to the Red River area of Minnesota, settling in Fergus Falls, which her father helped develop. After his death in 1889, her mother remarried a family friend and lawyer, H. Gysbert Klenze. Soon after, the family moved to Montana, first settling in Great Falls and finally in Butte, where Klenze drained the family funds pursuing mining and other ventures. MacLane spent the remainder of her life in the United States. She began writing for her school paper in 1898.

From the beginning, MacLane's writing was characterized by a direct, fiery, highly individualistic style. She was, however, also strongly influenced by such American regional realists as John Townsend Trowbridge (with whom she exchanged a few letters), Maria Louise Pool, and Hamlin Garland.

At the age of 19 in 1901, MacLane wrote her first book, titled by its author I Await the Devil's Coming but changed by its publishers, Herbert S. Stone & Co., to The Story of Mary MacLane. It sold 100,000 copies in the first mont and was influential on young women, but was pilloried by conservative critics and readers, and lightly ridiculed by H. L. Mencken.

Some criticshave suggested that even by today's standards, MacLane's writing is raw, honest, unflinching, self-aware, sensual, and extreme. She wrote openly about egoism and her own self-love, about sexual attraction and love for other women, and even about her desire to marry the Devil.

Her second book, My Friend Annabel Lee was published by Stone in 1903. More experimental in style than her debut book, it was not nearly so sensational, though MacLane was said to have made a fairly large amount of money.

Her final book, I, Mary Maclane: A Diary of Human Days was published by Frederick A. Stokes in 1917 and sold moderately well but may have been overshadowed by America's recent entry into World War I.

In 1917, she wrote and starred in the 90-minute autobiographical silent film titled Men Who Have Made Love to Me, for Essanay Studios.

MacLane died in Chicago in early August 1929, aged 48.

Books by Mary MacLane

The Story of Mary MacLane Cover image

The Story of Mary MacLane

Non-Fiction Biography

At the age of 19 in 1902, MacLane published her first book, The Story of Mary MacLane. It sold 100,000 copies in the first month and was popular among young girls, but was strongly criticized by conservative readers, and lightly ridiculed by H.L. Men...

I, Mary MacLane  Cover image

I, Mary MacLane

Memoir Non-Fiction
Young Death Politics Autobiography Sensation Feminism Sexuality

Mary MacLane lived a tortured life, ahead of her time. Her beloved father died when she was a young child, and at the age of 8, her stepfather moved the family from its home in Winnipeg, Canada to Montana in the United States, where young Mary had a...

My Friend Annabel Lee Cover image

My Friend Annabel Lee

Love Exploration Reflection Friendship Honesty Feminist Literature Desire Emotion Secret Complex Sorrow Coming-of-age

This book is capturing the essence of a profound friendship and the journey of self-discovery. This engaging book offers readers a glimpse into the author's unique perspective on life, love, and the complexities of human relationships. Mary MacLane p...