Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Garver Jordan

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Garver Jordan, 1865-1947

By Nicholas Meusburger, MA student, St. John's University, Queens, New York

Brief descriptors: N.Y. World, Harper's Bazaar, The Sturdy Oak, female journalists, Three Rousing Cheers

See also Notable American Women bio sketch in this database. [LINK]

Elizabeth Garver was born to William Frank Jordan and Margaretta Garver on May 9, 1865 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Elizabeth was the eldest of two daughters. She graduated as valedictorian from St. Mary's High School at Notre Dame convent in 1884. After graduating, she entered business school to learn shorthand. Jordan's first job was at the newspaper, Peck's Sun. This was a local newspaper run by later Wisconsin governor, George Peck. She was hired to edit the women's page of the newspaper. Her prosperous family and her ability to attain an education would help shape her journalistic career.

In 1890, Col. Cockerill (editor in chief) offered Jordan a position at the New York City newspaper, N.Y. World. She accepted the offer and moved to New York City that year. Jordan would remain with N.Y. World for ten years, one year as a reporter, and the last nine years as editor of various departments. Her first interview while working at the N.Y. World was with Caroline Scott Harrison, wife of then President Benjamin Harrison. The interview was significant because the First Lady rarely gave interviews. Impressed by her interview with Mrs. Harrison, the newspaper then sent Jordan to mountainous regions in Virginia and Tennessee to write an article on the inhabitants and their conditions. In 1893, she made a special study of tenement conditions in New York City, publishing the results of her investigations under the title: "The Submerged Tenth." In 1898, she published a compilation of ten of her previously published articles, known as Tales of the City Room.

In 1900, Jordan resigned from the World to take the position of editor at the magazine Harper's Bazaar. She remained with the magazine for thirteen years. After William Randolph Hearst bought the magazine in 1913, Jordan decided to remain with the previous publisher, Harper and Brothers, as a literary advisor. While editor, she published Sinclair Lewis's first novel, Our Mr. Wrenn, in 1914. Jordan also wrote and produced plays, most notably, The Lady from Oklahoma, in 1911.

Jordan actively campaigned for women's rights and the women's suffrage movement as a writer and editor. In 1917, Jordan edited a book, The Sturdy Oak, with fourteen chapters, each written by a different American author who wrote in support of women's rights. The book was published, and later sold to Collier's Weekly for serial publication.

In 1918, Jordan left her longtime publisher Harper and Brothers to work as an editorial director for Goldwyn pictures. From 1922 until she retired in 1945, Jordan remained very active and published a novel about every one to two years. In 1938, she outlined her rich and varied life while as a writer, editor, and activist in her memoir.

Elizabeth Jordan died on February 24, 1947 at home at 36 Gramercy Park in New York City. Jordan was never married, and was survived by her only immediate relative.

Sources:

Danky, James Philip, and Wayne A. Wiegand. Women in Print: Essays on the Print Culture of American Women from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

Elizabeth Garver Jordan Papers, 1891-1947. The New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library Manuscripts and Archives Division. Retrieved January 14, 2013.

James, Edward T. Notable American women, 1607 - 1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2004.

Leonard, John William. Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. New York, NY: American Commonwealth Company, 1976. [LINK to Jordan sketch]

Roggenkamp, Karen. "Sympathy and Sensation: Elizabeth Jordan, Lizzie Borden, and the Female Reporter in the Late Nineteenth Century." American Literary Realism 40, no. 1 (2007): 32-51. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27747271.

Rounds, Charles Ralph, and Henry Sherman, Hippensteel. Wisconsin Authors and Their Works. Madison, WI: Parker Educational Co., 1918.

Webster, Merriam, ed. Webster's Dictionary of American Women. New York, NY: Smithmark Publishers, 1996.

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