Lucy Furman visiting the University of Kentucky in 1937. Photo courtesy of UK Special Collections.

Inducted 2020

Born: June 7, 1869, Henderson County, Kentucky
Died: August 25, 1958, Cranford, New Jersey

Lucy Salome Furman attracted national attention with her popular short stories and novels about small-town and rural life in both eastern and western Kentucky around the turn of the last century.

Furman was born in Henderson County to Williams B. Furman, a physician, and Jessie (Collins) Furman. They died when she was a child, and Furman moved across the Ohio River to Evansville, Indiana. She graduated from Sayre School in Lexington in 1885 and moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, and then back to Evansville in 1889. Furman began supporting herself as a court stenographer and writer.

She wrote a series of short stories that were serialized in Century Magazine, 1894-1896, and then published as a book, Stories of a Sanctified Town(1896). The stories were fictionalized accounts of life in Robards, a small Henderson County community.

Furman moved to the mountains of Knott County in 1907 to take a job as director of grounds, gardens, and livestock at Hindman Settlement School, which had been established five years earlier. During 17 years on the Hindman staff, Furman turned her observations into short fiction for Century Magazineand The Atlanticand five best-selling novels.

Furman returned to Henderson in 1924 and became an animal rights activist. She wrote and lectured about the cruelty of steel-jaw traps and became vice president of the Anti-Steel Trap League, based in Washington, D.C.  In 1934, Furman proposed an anti-steel trap bill to Kentucky’s General Assembly, which was later approved. She retired in 1953 and moved to Cranford, New Jersey, where she lived with a nephew.

Selected bibliography

Stories of a Sanctified Town (1896)
Mothering on Perilous (1913)
Sight to the Blind (1914)
The Quare Women (1923) The University Press of Kentucky published a new edition in 2019 with a foreword by Rebecca Gayle Howell.
The Glass Window (1924)
The Lonesome Road (1927)

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