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Patience Sparhawk was published in London in 1897 and proved to be Atherton's first novel of significance. She was appreciated first as an author in Europe, where this book was popular. This was the first novel that introduced what became known as the new Western-American woman - a character featured in three other novels by Atherton. The story focuses on a woman who lived in the West in the 1890s who tried to succeed and overcome her low birth to be self-reliant and passionate. The novel offers Atherton's take on the argument about how much heredity versus environment affects a person.* ...

Gertrude Franklin Atherton (1857-1948), American biographer, historian and author of the best-seller Black Oxen (1923). She also wrote under the pen names Asmodeus and Frank Lin. She wrote many novels, short stories, essays, and articles for magazines and newspapers on such contemporary issues as feminism, politics and war. She is oft said to have been difficult and strong-willed herself, writing before her time, but her scope and range of vision in her stories of remarkable and independent woman entering the 20th century are well-respected and still in print.**

Defying conventions in 1882 Atherton had published anonymously the scandalous The Randolph's of the Redwoods, said to be based on a local families troubles. It was first serialised in the San Francisco Argonaut (later published as A Daughter of the Vine in 1899). Her family, including her husband and mother-in-law, were not impressed with her pursuing a career in writing, and her female characters exuding independence and sexuality caused them embarrassment. What Dreams May Come (1888) was published under the pseudonym Frank Lin. Hermia Suydam (1889) was another of Atherton's controversial works, deemed immoral by London critics. Whilst in California, she finished Los Cerritos (1890). The Doomswoman (1893) and Before the Gringo Came (1894) followed.**

She became known as one of California's most distinguished women, and earned several honorary degrees in her lifetime. Her works are now appreciated for their romantic-realism, exploring themes of nature versus nurture, characters often changing their environments on their pursuit of happiness and success. **
... *summary from Answers.com ... ** summary from The Literature Network

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