Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Peggy Whitman Prenshaw
Gwen Bristow was born September 16, 1903. Her father was a minister and church leader and her mother was a homemaker and housemother for residents of Southern Baptist Hospital nurses' home. Both had impressive genealogies. Bristow, a reporter in New Orleans for The Times-Picayune from July 9, 1925, to November 28, 1930, and February 5, 1932, to September 21, 1934, wrote for many periodicals throughout her life. Her marriage to Bruce Manning took her to Hollywood, where she lived from the summer of 1934 until late spring 1980. Bruce Manning's career as a script writer, director, and producer provided a milieu Bristow enjoyed but never entered professionally except to have her novels, Tomorrow Is Forever and Jubilee Trail, made into movies. Having published one small volume of poetry, Bristow is best known for her historical novels: Deep Summer (1937), The Handsome Road (1938), and This Side of Glory (1940)--all published under one title, Gwen Bristow's Plantation Trilogy (1962); Jubilee Trail (1950), Celia Garth (1959), and Calico Palace (1970). Her fourth novel, Tomorrow Is Forever (1943)--a departure from her historical novels--is set in World War II and focuses on reasons for anti-war sentiment. Her eighth, Golden Dreams (1980) is a straightforward historical sketch of the Gold Rush. An inexhaustible researcher, Bristow was admired for accuracy of historical detail in her fiction, all on national best-seller lists for months. Although not a feminist in the contemporary sense but an advocate for women's rights and abilities in assertive, professional roles, she lectured and lived as a deeply concerned, aware citizen and independent thinker. Exclusive of documents she destroyed (as too revealing), her journals (1931-1978) and papers depict her marriage, work, hopes, frustrations, family, friends, attitudes, and reactions to local, national, and international affairs. As author and lecturer, she was enormously successful financially. Although some critics found her fiction "sentimental" and "romantic," more praised it for her "objective" and "realistic" depiction of historical milieu. She wrote of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Louisiana, the nineteenth-century western movement, eighteenth-century South Carolina, and the nineteenth-century Gold Rush. A talented writer, she made a significant contribution in the genre of romantic historical fiction. She died in New Orleans August 17, 1980.
Theriot, Billie J., "Gwen Bristow: A Biography With Criticism of Her "Plantation Trilogy"." (1994). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 5907.