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Edna Ferber

In her novels, short stories, and plays, Edna Ferber captured the rich variety of life in America, from the Mississippi River in Show Boat to the wilds of Alaska in Ice Palace. Ferber quit school at seventeen to become a reporter for the Appleton Daily Crescent in Michigan, working her way up to a larger paper in Milwaukee before turning her focus to fiction. In all, she wrote twelve novels, two autobiographies, a great number of short stories, and nine plays, many written in collaborations with other playwrights. Her writing was eagerly received both in America and Europe, and even Teddy Roosevelt confessed to following the adventures of her smart, tough businesswoman Emma McChesney. Ferber was an inveterate people-watcher, which she credited both to her work as a journalist and to early childhood experiences of anti-Semitism in Ottumwa, Iowa, which gave her an understanding of the tensions between insiders and outsiders in small-town society. In 1925, her novel So Big won the Pulitzer Prize, and her novel Show Boat, which she also helped adapt as a musical, continues to hold a significant place in American culture.


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Edna Ferber (1885–1968) was a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and playwright. This image is a portrait of Ferber taken after she won the state oratory contest and graduated from high school.

Date of Birth

Kalamazoo, MI
United States

Date of Death
Journalist, Writer, Playwright

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Edna Ferber." (Viewed on December 11, 2019) <>.


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