Born: May 25, 1919
Died: February 8, 1993
Ohio connection: Birth
Jean Gould, a biographer to icons of American culture, was born on May 25, 1919, in Greenville, Ohio, and reared in a literary family that ran a small business publishing a weekly paper, entertainment guides, and theater programs. Her mother, Elsie Gould, wrote poetry and editorials for the family publications and her aunt was a newspaperwoman for half a century. It is no surprise, then, that Gould, who once said she was “injected, if not born, with printer’s ink in my veins”, started writing at ten years old. Highly creative, she wrote numerous short stories, fairy tales and children’s plays and thought that, upon graduation from the University of Toledo in 1937, she would become a novelist and playwright. She also loved reading and writing poetry though, and through a professor was introduced to the works of Emily Dickinson. Realizing no one had yet written a biography of Dickinson for children, Gould wrote Miss Emily (1946), a book whose success surprised its publishers at Houghton. Thus was born an award-winning career as a biographer for both children and adult audiences, since, as Gould said, “publishers, like movie producers, always want more of a successful genre”. Her subjects include novelist Herman Melville, Young Mariner Melville (1956); poets Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Poet and Her Book: A Biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1969) and Robert Frost, (who once taught Gould at the University of Michigan before she transferred to Toledo) Robert Frost: The Aim Was Song (1964); painter Winslow Homer, Winslow Homer: A Portrait (1962); and president Franklin Roosevelt, A Good Fight: F.D.R.’s Conquest of Polio(1960). Her love of theater was evident in Modern American Playwrights (1966) whose success led to her two-volume poetry project: American Women Poets: Pioneers of Modern Poetry (1980) and Modern American Women Poets (1984). Gould returned to Ohio in 1992, after having lived in New York City since the 1950’s. Suffering from cancer of the jaw, she died in Perrysburg, Ohio, on February 8, 1993.
Thomas A. Edison Award and prize for special excellence in contributing to character development of children, 1959, for That Dunbar Boy; Huntington Hartford Foundation, fellowship, 1962, for work on Robert Frost book; fellowship at Yaddo, 1964, and Huntington Hartford Foundation, 1965, both for biographical studies of American playwrights; Ossabaw Island Foundation fellowships, 1968 and 1976; Radio Network Book Reviews “Oppie” Award for best biography of the year, 1969, Ohioana Library Association award, 1969, and American Association of University Women special award, 1970, all for The Poet and Her Book: A Biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay; National Book Award nomination, 1975, for Amy: The World of Amy Lowell and the Imagist Movement; Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowships, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1984, and 1985, for studies of American women poets; MacDowell Colony fellowship, 1982; Modern American Women Poets was the English Speaking Union’s Books-Across-the-Sea selection for 1985.