Authors, Activists,

Fannie Hurst
Hurst photograph courtesy of the Manuscripts Collections, Department of Special Collections


After receiving her B.A. in 1909, Fannie Hurst left St. Louis (despite her parent's objections) to pursue graduate studies and a writing career in New York.  After years of publisher rejections, her Saturday Evening Post submission jump-started her career.  By the mid-1920s she was among the best-regarded, best-selling, and highly paid authors in the United States, writing novels including Back Street (1931), and Imitation of Life (1933).  Between 1912 and 1964, she wrote eighteen novels, three volumes of essays, and hundreds of short stories.  

An advocate for equitable marriages, Hurst kept her maiden name when she married.  She and her husband, Jacques Danielson, showed that even with separate careers, social lives, and apartments, a close and loving relationship was possible.

Manuscript for Quiet Street
Pages for Quiet Street, 1966, one of the last works written by Hurst before her death.  From the Manuscripts Collections, Department of Special Collections.

Hurst, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, served on a national committee for the Works Progress Administration and the National Urban League.  After World War II, she raised funds for victims of Nazi persecution.  After her death in 1968, a large part of her estate was left to Washington University.  A portion was used to create the Hurst Professorship in the Department of English for visiting writers to Washington University.

Pearlie Evans, as featured in Washington University Magazine, Spring 1996.


Pearlie Evans is one of the first African-American students to attend Washington University.  Entering the George Warren Brown School of Social Work in 1955, she was one of two African-American women in her class.

This was only the first of many trails Evans helped blaze over her long career in social work, politics, and social activism.  Her story was profiled in the Spring 1996 issue of Washington University Magazine (right).

Edna Gellhorn, 1944
Edna Fischel Gellhorn, 1944

When interviewed just before her death in 1970, Gellhorn reminisced, "I was inspired by the message that women had something to contribute."



The daughter of Dr. William Fischel, professor at the School of Medicine, and Martha Ellis Fischel, noted civic activist, Edna Fischel attended the University's secondary school for girls - Mary Institute.  Her list of life accomplishments is long with her work primarily focusing on women's voting rights.

After graduating from Bryn Mawr in 1900, she returned to St. Louis, married, raised four children, and became an officer in the Equal Suffrage League.  On National Suffrage Day in 1914, a parade of automobiles covered in yellow banners met at Edna Gellhorn's West End home, before driving through Forest Park and to City Hall.  She insisted the St. Louis League of Women Voters (LWV) include African-American women, when most chapters did not.  Carrie Chapman Catt asked her to become the first national president for the new LWV, but Gellhorn selected the vice-presidency to better balance her family responsibilities.  In 1919, Missourians voted to ratify the 19th amendment ensuring equal voting rights regardless of sex.

Gellhorn's other contributions included service on the St. Louis Mayor's Race Relations Commission, the Urban League, regional director of food programs in World War I and World War II, advocacy for minimum wage and child labor laws, and helping her close friend Eleanor Roosevelt promote the United Nations. 

In 1968, the Edna Fischel Gellhorn Professorship of Public Affairs at Washington University was endowed by her friends and admirers.


Mrs. Palmer's Honey, title page
Title page to Mrs. Palmer's Honey, Fannie Cook
(Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1946)


After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri, Fannie Frank attended Washington University, graduating in 1916 with a M.A. in English and Philosophy.  She married Dr. Jerome E. Cook, had two sons, and taught school part-time. 

As an author, her most noted work is her 1946 novel, Mrs. Palmer's Honey, set in the African-American Ville neighborhood of St. Louis.  For that she won the publisher's first George Washington Carver Memorial Award for an outstanding work dealing with black American issues.

Her civil rights and humanitarian work continued through her life.  Cook was appointed chair of the St. Louis Mayor's Race Relations Committee in 1930.  As chair, she worked to place Homer G. Phillips Hospital in the Ville, started a vocational school for black children, and promoted training for black social workers at Washington University.  Ultimately she resigned in 1946 over the continued lack of full integration by local theaters.  She raised funds to support Jewish refugees after World War II.  And she testified on behalf of the Shelley family when they faced racial discrimination after purchasing their home.  This would become part of the 1948 landmark Supreme Court case, Shelley v. Kraemer, which declared racial covenants in real estate unconstitutional.