Martha Rozett is a Professor in the Department of English. She recently published a book titled When People Wrote Letters. The book is a tale told through letters, photographs, clippings and pamphlets, excerpts from an unpublished autobiography and from a family history narrative, along with other saved objects. The main characters are Betty and Edith Stedman, two eloquent and adventurous women whose relationship serves as the book’s central narrative. Their travels, and the travels of other family members, take the reader from 19th and early twentieth century New England, to Key West in the 1830s, to the Minnesota Territories in the 1860s, to France during World War I, to small towns in Texas and to China in the 1920s, to Spain in the early 1930s, and across America during World War II.
When People Wrote Letters is also an account of Edith Stedman’s extraordinary career during the early years of medical social work, and a love story in which the religious and cultural differences between New England Episcopalians and New York Jews threaten to disrupt a romance in the 1940s. And finally, it is about how family chronicles emerge in piecemeal fashion from the objects and documents people save and pass on.