Edith Goddard Curtis (Roelker)

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Edith Goddard Curtis (Roelker)

Birthplace: Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
Death: February 01, 1977 (83)
Dublin, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William Greene Roelker and Eleanor Roelker
Wife of Charles Pelham Curtis IV
Mother of Anita Deidamia McClellan; Sally Cary Curtis, author; Dr. Charles Pelham Curtis, V; Richard Curtis; William Curtis and 1 other
Sister of William Greene Roelker, Jr. and Eleanor Jenckes Roelker
Half sister of Frederick Edmonds Coudert Roelker

Occupation: Biographer, historian, diarist
Managed by: Jessica Marie German
Last Updated:

About Edith Goddard Curtis (Roelker)

Edith Roelker Curtis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edith Roelker Curtis (1893–1977) was a New England author, historian, and diarist.

Early life, education, and social activities

Edith Goddard Roelker was born on July 29, 1893 to William and Eleanor (Jenckes) Roelker. Her mother's roots in Rhode Island stretched back to the colonial era, and Edith grew up in a privileged environment on an East Greenwich homestead and in a city residence in Providence. With the marriage strained by Eleanor's alcoholism, the Roelkers divorced in 1901. Edith attended school in Providence and lived for a time with an aunt in Cincinnati. She subsequently attended the elite Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut between 1909 and 1912 but left before receiving a degree. She made her society debut in 1912.[1]

Two years later, she married Charles Pelham Curtis, Jr., a Harvard Law student and member of a similarly distinguished Boston family. Charles became a partner at the Choate, Hall & Stewart firm, and the couple lived in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood until they moved to Norfolk, Massachusetts in 1924. They had five children: Sarah (called Sally) (b. 1915), Anita (b. 1917), Charles (b. 1919), William, and Richard. During the First World War, Edith volunteered for the Red Cross. She was active in Boston club life, becoming a member of the Nucleus, Chilton Club, and Boston Sewing Circle (a predecessor to the Junior League), among others. The clubs functioned as hubs of high society, but Edith also participated in the cultural events and volunteer activities sponsored by the groups. She maintained an interest in literary and social organizations throughout her life.[2]

Literary career

Edith Curtis's literary ambitions were awakened after the birth of her third child, and she undertook course work in composition and English literature at Radcliffe College. She published small pieces through the 1920s. Inspired by the celebration of the Boston tercentennial, she released a full-length book, Anne Hutchinson: A Biography in 1930.[3] As her professional writing career developed, her marriage foundered. Charles's extramarital affairs prompted a divorce in 1936 when Edith discovered in a gossip column that her husband had registered at a New York hotel with his mistress. Given the prominent standing of the family, the divorce caused scandal in Boston social circles.[4]

While maintaining an active social life and overseeing a large household, Edith continued to write as her children grew up and left the home. Short works appeared in magazines and newspapers throughout the 1930s. A second historical biography, Lady Sarah Lennox, An Irrepressible Stuart, was published by Putnam in 1946 and was also released in London and Brazil. This extensively researched narration of the life of the notorious royal consort was reportedly enjoyed by the British royal family and Winston Churchill.[5]

Moving to Dublin, New Hampshire in the mid-1950s, where she would remain until her death in 1977, Curtis became an avid gardener and bird-watcher while still publishing historical sketches, book reviews, and travel essays. She covered eclectic topics in magazine and newspaper articles, which ranged from scholarly pieces in academic journals to pulp stories in confessional magazines. Her most noted book, A Season in Utopia, The Story of Brook Farm, was published in 1961 and reprinted in 1971.[6] This history of the Massachusetts Transcendentalist commune was widely reviewed, and it won the National League of American Pen Women's 1962 prize for the best work of non-fiction.[7] Curtis later assisted greatly in the successful effort to designate the endangered site of Brook Farm in West Roxbury a national historical landmark.[8]

Later writings and death

In the 1960s, Edith Roelker Curtis became an increasingly prolific writer of fiction and verse, exploring more personal and contemporary topics than her historical works. A novella about Gilded Age Rhode Island, Love’s Random Dart, came out in 1962, and the full-length novel, Mexican Romance, was published in 1969.[9]

At the same time, Curtis spent many years researching and writing a biography of Josiah Tattnall, a naval officer who became a commander in the Confederate Navy during the Civil War. Though she was not able to complete this book project, she distributed her research and writings to the National Archives and Records Administration and the Sophia Smith Collection in hopes that the work would be completed.[10] Her unpublished diaries, which cover many years between the 1920s and 1970s, provide a perspective on a troubled marriage and complex family life, the struggle to make a writing career, and day-to-day observations of New England life.[11]

Edith Roelker Curtis died in Dublin, New Hampshire on February 1, 1977 at the age of 83.[12]


  1. Edith Byron, biographical notes, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  2. Edith Byron, biographical notes, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  3. Edith Roelker Curtis, Biographical Sketch, ca.1969, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  4. Edith Roelker Curtis, Biographical Sketch, ca.1969, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  5. Edith Roelker Curtis, Biographical Sketch, ca.1969, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  6. Edith Byron, biographical notes, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  7. Literary awards, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  8. Edith Byron, biographical notes, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  9. Publication records, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  10. Publication records, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  11. Diaries, 1916-77, Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Northampton, MA.
  12. Edith Roelker Curtis obituary, Boston Globe, Feb. 2, 1977.

Bibliographic details for "Edith Roelker Curtis"

  • Page name: Edith Roelker Curtis
  • Author: Wikipedia contributors
  • Publisher: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
  • Date of last revision: 4 January 2015 02:19 UTC
  • Date retrieved: 14 February 2015 20:09 UTC
  • Permanent link: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edith_Roelker_Curtis&oldi...
  • Primary contributors: Revision history statistics
  • Page Version ID: 640886372



William Greene Roelker was born in Cincinnati, O., June 12, 1854, and died in New York city, January 24, 1911. He was the son of Dr. Frederick Roelker and Katherine Ray (Greene). His father came from Hanover and was naturalized in this country, in 1837. His mother's great -great-grandfather, William Greene, was governor of Rhode Island under the Royal Charter of Charles II, 1778-86. His grandfather, also named William Greene, was lieutenant governor of the State, 1866-68.

He was educated in the private schools of Cincinnati, and in 1867 went to Europe and was at the University of Berlin, Academic de Geneve, and, returning to this country, he entered the Harvard Law School in 1873, graduating in 187s with the degree of LL.B. He was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1876, and in that year he began practice in Providence, forming a partnership with Francis W. Miner, which continued until the retirement from practice of the latter. He was elected from the town of Warwick a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 1877 and 1878 and was a member of the Rhode Island Senate 1894-98. He was a delegate from Rhode Island to the National Convention of the Republican party in 1892, and in the same year was chairman of the Republican National Convention in Rhode Island. He was chairman of the commission to revise the laws of the State which resulted in the compilation known as "General Laws of Rhode Island, 1896." In 1894 he was a candidate before the Legislature for office of United States senator, but withdrew in favor of George Peabody Wetmore of Newport. He was a member of the American Bar Association, The Rhode Island Historical Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Colonial Wars, Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati, Hope, Agawam and Squantum Clubs of Rhode Island, the Metropolitan and Fencers Clubs of New York and the New York Yacht Club, the University Club of Boston and the Metropolitan Club of Washington.

He was twice married, the children of his first wife surviving him being a son, William Greene Roelker, and two daughters, Eleanor Jenckes Roelker and Edith Goddard Roelker. He is survived by his widow, Coralie (Coudert), and a son, Frederick Edmonds Coudert Roelker.

Apart from Mr. Roelker's professional practice, which was large and lucrative, and apart from his political life, he became interested in various large financial enterprises and during the latter part of his life he devoted himself almost entirely to financial matters. He removed from Providence, residing largely in New York and Newport.

Bibliographic information:

  • Title: Proceedings of the Rhode Island Historical Society (1872)
  • Author: Rhode Island Historical Society
  • Volume: 3
  • Subject: Rhode Island Historical Society; Rhode Island -- History Periodicals
  • Publisher: Providence, Rhode Island Historical Society
  • Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
  • Language: English
  • Call number: 11134688
  • Digitizing sponsor: Sloan Foundation
  • Book contributor: The Library of Congress
  • Collection: library_of_congress; americana
  • Scanfactors: 9
  • Full catalog record: MARCXML
  • Page 58
  • https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsofrho03rhod#page/58/mode/2up
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Edith Goddard Curtis (Roelker)'s Timeline

July 25, 1893
Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, United States
October 31, 1910
June 16, 1915
Nahant, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
August 21, 1919
Wenham, MA
February 1, 1977
Age 83
Dublin, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States