Nancy Hale (1908–1988)
From Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale
Nancy Hale was born 112 years ago today, on May 6, 1908.
She was the daughter of two well-known painters: Lilian Westcott Hale, whose memorable portraits are still displayed in museums, and Philip Leslie Hale. Her grandfather was Edward Everett Hale, best known for the short story “The Man Without a Country”; his sister was Lucretia Peabody Hale (author of the children’s classic The Peterkin Papers) and his wife’s aunt was Harriet Beecher Stowe. You don’t have to go out that much further on the family tree to find Charlotte Perkins Gilman (“The Yellow Wallpaper”) and Helen Keller.
When she was twenty years old, however, Nancy Hale broke free of her Boston family and moved to New York City, where she began working as an editor at Vogue. She was soon writing for The New Yorker, which would accept more than eighty of her stories over the next four decades. Ten of her stories won O. Henry Awards and four appeared in Best American Short Story collections. In 1935 she was hired as a journalist for The New York Times and is believed to have been the paper’s first woman reporter to cover the city news beat. She later settled in Charlottesville and remained there for the rest of her life.
Last fall, when the Library of America collection of her stories was published, Hale was almost entirely forgotten—her nearly two hundred stories and her best-selling novels all out of print. We present as our Story of the Week selection “Those Are as Brothers,” the work that helped resuscitate her reputation, and in our introduction we describe how Hale went from being a neglected author to a rediscovered one.