The Corner Stone (Annotated), by Margaret Hill McCarter
The first book restored and made available for modern readers is The Corner Stone (Annotated) by Margaret Hill McCarter and illustrated by J. Allen St. John.
The Corner Stone is a sweet, plainspoken story set in Kansas in the early 1900’s. In it, we meet Edith Grannell, a young woman orphaned at an early age and abandoned to boarding school by her wealthy uncle, Samson Grannell. Edith’s uncle is more interested in prosperity than family, but fortunes are changing for him and his neighbors. Grannell calls Edith back to the family farm with a plot in mind to increase his acreage and his wealth.
The author, Margaret Hill McCarter, has given us a character in Edith who is a strong, self-assured, independent young woman. We discover that Edith is compassionate and caring despite having received scarce compassion or affection from her only living relative, her uncle. On returning to her uncle’s farm, Edith recalls being sent away as a child, and the goodbye kiss from her only friend growing up, Homer Helm. The tenderness of the recollection conveys the loneliness that was her life: “The memory of that good-bye kiss had been a sacred possession in the poverty of a loveless childhood.” However, while she was away at boarding school, Homer, it would seem, has grown up to be something other than the kindhearted boy she remembers. From there the story unfolds.
At first encounter, it might seem surprising to find such a strong, independent female protagonist in a story of this era. However, considering the conditions of the time, and the life of the author, perhaps it should not be a surprise to find McCarter’s protagonist to be a young woman of such strength. In addition to being a wife and homemaker, Margaret Hill McCarter was a successful author, having published numerous short stories, pamphlets, and books. She was also active in the community and in politics. McCarter had the distinction of being the first woman to speak at a national political convention, specifically, the Republican National Convention of 1920, two months before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment acknowledging women’s right to vote. As many casual students of history are aware, suffragette members of the militant National Woman’s Party protested the Convention; what may be overlooked are the efforts of women like Margaret Hill McCarter who worked from within the system to help achieve the same goal.
McCarter wrote of life in Kansas in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with directness and fondness, providing modern readers an authentic, plainspoken view of American history in the years of settlement and homesteading following the Civil War. Her body of work – the stories she wrote and her activities in the community and politics – make publication of The Corner Stone an appropriate choice to be the first in the “Quiet Voices” series — rediscovered works from historical authors whose voices may be newly appreciated by contemporary readers.