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Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings History and Legacy

Marjorie Kinnan was born August 8, 1896, in Washington, D.C., where she grew up.  She pursued writing from an early age.  After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1918, she moved to New York, and in 1919 she married her college classmate and fellow writer Charles Rawlings.  The couple moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and then to Rochester, New York.  She wrote for various newspapers and magazines, but had little success in selling her own works. 

 



  
Marjorie Kinnan's birth certificate.  *  Marjorie at 18 months. The family called her "Peaches." *Charles and Marjorie Rawlings. *
                             

In 1928 Marjorie bought a 72-acre orange grove near Cross Creek, Florida, and she and her husband moved there in November of that year.  Although the purpose of the move was to provide some financial independence to allow both Marjorie and her husband time for writing, it was the place and people she encountered that inspired her greatest literary successes. In 1930 she sold “Cracker Chidlings” to Scribner’s Magazine and even more significantly “Jacob’s Ladder,” bringing her to the attention of famed editor Maxwell Perkins.  Several more stories reflecting the persons and places she had come to know in her new home followed.



 


  

 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home at Cross Creek. The red birds.

Marjorie did much of her writing on her screened porch, working at her typewriter on a table constructed by Charles Rawlings.  Her love of the land and its creatures and the people she met in her new home had given her a new literary vision. She lived with the people, she hunted with the people, and she ate like the people. She learned the seasons, the weather patterns, and the natural flora and fauna of Cross Creek. 

The same pair of red birds mates and nests in an orange tree behind my house and  brings its progeny twice a year to the feed basket in the crepe myrtle in the front yard…"         

Cross Creek, 1941     

In 1933 she published South Moon Under, a tale set in the nearby Big Scrub, to critical acclaim and success.  Marjorie divorced her husband, who had become discontented with life at the Creek, later that year.  Her next novel, Golden Apples, was published in 1935.



Marjorie's writing table made by Charles Rawlings.  She enjoyed writing at this table on the front porch of her home and watch     people pass by.

Marjorie published The Yearling in 1938.  It become an international best seller as well as a critical success, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.  In the years since it has become an American classic. The story of the Baxter family who lived in the Florida scrub and struggled to make a living off the land, the novel features the “coming of age” of 12-year-old Jody as well as his fawn.   

Cross Creek, published in 1942, is an evocative and lyrical "love story to a place," and an often-amusing view of her neighbors that also reveals the profound bond with the natural world that pervades her stories and books.  It was immensely popular. 

Rawlings married hotelier Norton S. Baskin in 1941.  The couple purchased the Castle Warden in St. Augustine to renovate and run as a hotel.   The hotel began operating in spite of American entrance into World War II.    



 



 



 
 Norton Baskin. * Norton and Marjorie's wedding photo. *

 Norton in his American Field Service uniform. *


During the war Marjorie personally corresponded with many servicemen who had read her books. (South Moon Under, The Yearling and Cross Creek were published in Armed Services editions.)  As a result of reactions to the descriptions of cooking and food in Cross Creek, including from servicemen, she wrote Cross Creek Cookery, also published in 1942. 

The first orange blossoms have opened. For a month or six weeks, we shall be giddy by day with them and at night drawn in a sea of perfume. When the oranges blossoms are almost done, the grapefruit blooms and then the tangerines.  …. after having lived with them for a few years, one knows blindfolded which citrus fruit is flowering and what month it is.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Cross Creek, 1941     

In 1943 Baskin joined the American Field Service, serving as an ambulance driver in the Burma/India theater of war.  Their correspondence, including that during Norton’s service, is insightful and well worth reading.  During that time Marjorie continued to run the farm at Cross Creek as well as overseeing the hotel in St. Augustine.  In addition,  she was sued by a Cross Creek neighbor, objecting to her depiction in Cross Creek, a case that lasted from 1943 to 1947.     She also began writing The Sojourner, which was finally published in 1953.

 


 

 


 

 

 A party at Cross Creek in the living room. *

 Marjorie in 1941. *

On December 14, 1953, Rawlings died of a cerebral hemorrhage while in St. Augustine.  She was buried in Antioch Cemetery in Island Grove.  She bequeathed her Cross Creek home to the University of Florida.  In 1970 the University of Florida contracted with the State of Florida to take over management of the property and the home, and the property became a state park.   

Baskin died in 1997 and is buried alongside Marjorie at Antioch Cemetery. 



 Marjorie and Norton together forever.

The Rawlings home is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Visitors to the Rawlings home will sometimes find staff members cooking in the kitchen, preparing some of the dishes she shared with her readers in Cross Creek Cookery.   Perhaps they will be making orange marmalade and listening to the red birds.

Visit Antioch Cemetery and Rawlings Grave Site


*Most black and white photos are used courtesy of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A.  Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.         

BOOKS BY MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS

                BOOKS about MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS
                                                                                                                                                                           
 South Moon  Under, 1933   Frontier Eden: The Literary Career of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Gordon Bigelow, 1966 
 Golden Apples, 1935    The Selected Letters of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Edited by Gordon Bigelow and Laura V. Monti, 1983 
 The Yearling, 1938    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Sojourner at Cross Creek, Elizabeth Silverthorne, 1988 
 When the Whippoorwill, 1940     Invasion of Privacy: The Cross Creek Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Patricia Nassif Acton, 1988 
 Cross Creek, 1942     Idella, Marjorie Rawlings' "Perfect Maid", Idella Parker, 1992 
 Cross Creek Cookery, 1942    The Creek, J.T. Glisson, 1993 
 The Sojourner, 1953     Cross Creek Kitchens, Sally Morrison and Kate Barnes, 1993 
 The Secret River,  1955    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida Crackers, Sandra Wallus Sammons and Nina McGuire, 1995
The Marjorie Rawlings Reader, Edited by Juila Scribner Bigham, 1956    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings A Descriptive Bibliography, Rodger L. Tarr, 1996
Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, edited by Roger Tarr, 1994     Vegetable Gardening in Florida, James M. Stephens, 1999 
Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Songs of a Housewife, edited by Roger Tarr, 1996     From Reddick to Cross Creek, Idella Parker, 1999 
 Blood of My Blood, 2002   Max & Marjorie (Letters Between Maxwell Perkins and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), Edited by Rodger Tarr, 1999
    The Private Marjorie (Letters from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to Norton S. Baskin), Edited by Rodger Tarr, 2004
    The Uncollected Writings of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Collection of juvenilia, college writing, newspaper pieces, and stories of life in Florida), Edited by Rodger L. Tarr and Brent E. Kinser, 2007 
    Cross Creek Readers Guide (An Illustrated Quick-Reference Guide to Cross Creek), James M. Stephens, 2008
        Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Anna Lillios, 2010
        Hamaca Happenings at Cross Creek, James M. Stephens, 2013
        The Remarkable Kinship of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Ellen Glasgow, Ashley Andrews Lear, 2018
        The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ann McCutchan, 2021  
           

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