Amanda Douglas

Amanda Minnie Douglas was born on 14 July 1831 (some sources erroneously list 1837) in New York City, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Douglas. She attended the City Institute there, and, after 1853 (when the family moved to Newark, New Jersey), continued her education in English and American literature with a private tutor. According to a contemporaneous biographical sketch, "In childhood she was noted for her powers of story-telling, when she would tell her friends long tales, regular serials, that would continue for weeks." [1]

Douglas was planning to study engraving and design when family illness intervened: she was eighteen at the time and her presence and income were needed at home, so she took up writing, selling stories to various periodicals, including the Saturday Evening Post, New York Ledger, and Lady's Friend. As Douglas explained "I had no thought of becoming a novelist, as I was so interested in other pursuits; but the path seemed to open, and others proved quite impossible, as I could not leave my home." [2]

She remained in Newark, and apparently kept intellectually active, joining "the Ray Palmer club--the oldest woman's literary organization in the locality" and the New Jersey Women's Press Club. [3] She was acquainted with several writers, including Edgar Allen Poe, and was friends with Louisa May Alcott.

In addition to her writing, Douglas helped develop several inventions, and even patented one: "a folding frame for a mosquito-net, to be used by travellers, artists, and others." [4]

Douglas was a prolific writer; from 1866 to 1913, she usually published one or more books per year and wrote for adults as well as children. In Trust, her first book (an adult novel), was published in 1866, and its sales surpassed 20,000 copies. Unfortunately, Douglas had sold the copyright along with the story and thus failed to benefit fully from its success. Learning from her experience, she retained copyright on subsequent books.

Her first girls' series, Kathie (1870-1871), was somewhat didactic and very much in the style of 19th-century series; her next, "Little Girl" (e.g., A Little Girl in Old Boston, A Little Girl in Old Philadelphia), was among the earliest historical fiction series for girls. In 1893, she received a $2000 prize for the best work of juvenile fiction from Youth's Companion for a non-series title, Larry. More than ten years after her death, the entry in Dictionary of American Biography noted that "during her long life her books circulated widely and even to-day they are in constant demand in public and Sunday-school libraries."

Her biographical sketch in A Woman of the Century (1893) also noted "Douglas has suffered much from long illness, but she keeps up courage . . . She is a fluent talker and well informed on current events."[5]

Douglas never married. She died 18 July 1916 in Newark.

Contributed by Frank PolkinghornFrank Polkinghorn:

Her parents, were John and Elizabeth Douglas .

John Nelson Douglas was the son of Daniel and Martha (Dixon) Douglas. He was born 24 Feb 1807 in Hanover Neck (now East Hanover), Morris, New Jersey. Elizabeth, the daughter of Stephen and Hannah (Underhill) Horton of Yonkers, NY. She was born 11 Jun 1803 in Yonkers. They were married 20 Dec 1828 in New York by Samuel Eastman.

They had four children:

  •  Oscar Augustus, b. Newark, NJ, 9 Sep 1829;
  • Amanda Minnie, b. New York City 14 July 1831;
  • Charles, b. Poughkeepsie, NY 3 Oct 1833,;and Annie, b. 25 July 1835, location unknown.
  • John Nelson died on Staten Island, NY 4 Oct 1884. His widow died there 2 Aug 1891.

They are buried in the Moravian Cemetery (owned by the United Bretherens Church on Staten Island), New Dorp, Staten Island. They are buried in the Smith/Baldwin plot; they have no tombstone.