Born in 1883, Elsie Robinson’s real life reads like fiction: A loveless marriage; a job as the only woman—the “lady miner”—in a crew of men, mucking for gold; a quasi-illicit affair with a darkly handsome (and also married) writer of children’s books; a son, George, whose asthma made breathing a daily feat. A gifted illustrator, memoirist, poet, fiction writer, and journalist, Robinson’s appeal was rooted in her ability to shape and spin life, in all its searches, misses, and strikes for gold, into text. Throughout her difficult marriage, divorce, and jobs, she wrote, often by kerosene lamp, on a borrowed typewriter, late into the night when she finally had a moment to herself. Her gift for publishing was innate. Once she showed up at the Oakland Tribute’s office with a pitch for a children’s section, her future opened up; her children’s column, “Trestle Glenn Secrets,” ran alongside L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Stories of Oz.” But it was her later, and third, syndicated column, “Listen, World!” that made her a national household name. With an audience of 20 million, she tackled pressing issues that remain prescient today, such as immigration, women’s rights, and the importance of women prioritizing self-fulfillment and realization, a very modern, and just-as-controversial, ideal. This, and so much more, is the subject of Allison Gilbert’s biography of Robinson, aptly named for her famous column. Hosted by Politics and Prose, Gilbert will be joined by fellow biographer Kitty Kelley for a conversation on Robinson—and all she fought and stood for. The discussion starts at 3 p.m. on Oct. 8 at Politics and Prose’s Connecticut Avenue NW location. politics-prose.com. Free.
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