Top 100 Badass Writers in History
#94: Gertrude Barrows Bennett
Born in 1883, Gertrude completed school through the eighth grade and worked as a stenographer during the day in order to help support her family. In 1909 she married Stewart Bennett, a British journalist and explorer, only to lose him a year later when he was killed on an expedition. After her father also died in WWI, Bennett was left alone to care for her infant daughter and invalid mother.
Bennett had written her first short story at age 17. A science fiction tale called ”The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar,” it was accepted and published by Argosy, then one of the top pulp magazines. She once again turned to writing as the means to support her family, starting with a novella called “The Nightmare,” which appeared in All-Story Weekly in 1917. She asked for this story to be published under a pseudonym in order to protect her privacy and family - From then on, she was known to the public as Francis Stevens.
Publishing over 15 works in her later years, Bennett is credited with creating the genre of dark fantasy. In a publishing world that was practically devoid of women, she was highly praised by her peers and sought out by the reading public. H.P. Lovecraft exalted her novel “The Citadel of Fear” and encouraged her to publish her only science fiction novel “The Heads of Cerberus.” One of the first dystopian novels, this book features a “grey dust from a silver phial” which transports anyone who inhales it to a totalitarian Philadelphia of 2118 AD.
For many years, researchers believed that Bennett had died in California in 1939. However, the recent discovery of her death certificate has shown that she passed away in 1948 at the age of 65.