Becoming an Author: Amélie Rives’s Audacious Entrance into Publishing by Jane Censer Turner

Time Period
1861 to 1876
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Media Type
Women's History
Amélie Rives

On April 28, 2022, historian Jane Turner Censer presented a lecture about the literary career of Amélie Rives.

By 1890, Amélie Rives was well-known all over America, both as the author of a scandalous novel and as a beauty who had married a very wealthy heir of New York’s Astor family. Only five years earlier, Rives, then a 22-year-old living in the family plantation outside Charlottesville, had burst upon the literary scene with a short story in the Atlantic Monthly, arguably the nation’s most prestigious literary magazine, and a poem in the highly regarded Century Illustrated Monthly. Jane Turner Censer draws from her new biography, The Princess of Albemarle: Amélie Rives, Author and Celebrity at the Fin de Siècle, to explain how Rives went from anonymity to a household name. In her quest to become a published author, Rives deployed charm, unconventional behavior, and family connections to bring her stories and poems to the notice of prominent publishers. Censer also indicates how Rives, while achieving celebrity and a literary career, struggled with the expectations of her society, her family, and her own notions about propriety.

Jane Turner Censer, Professor Emerita of History at George Mason University, is a specialist on the 19th-century United States and Southern women. Her essays and prize-winning articles have appeared in numerous journals including the Journal of Southern History, Comparative Studies in Society and History, American Journal of Legal History, Southern Cultures, and American Quarterly. From 2017-2018, she served as president of the Southern Historical Association. She is the author of several books, including North Carolina Planters and Their Children, 1800-1860; The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865-1895; and The Princess of Albemarle: Amélie Rives, Author and Celebrity at the Fin de Siècle.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

Want to listen to an audio-only version of this lecture? Listen now on Soundcloud.