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The novelist Martha Ostenso (1900-1963) was born in Norway and raised in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Manitoba, Canada. As a young woman, she studied writing at Columbia University and became active in literary social circles in Greenwich Village. She was a social worker for a time in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. These experiences influenced the stark realist style she became known for upon the 1925 publication of her first novel, Wild Geese, which met with critical acclaim. This and her later works were set in the northern prairies of Canada and the United States, and Ostenso is seen as a pioneer in the style of "prairie realism." Thomas Seltzer published Ostenso's first book, A Far Land (1924), her only volume of poetry. Ostenso lived most of her later life in Minnesota.
The cover, title page, inscription, and a tipped-in letter from Martha Ostenso in George Barr McCutcheon's copy of Ostenso's Dark Dawn (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1926)
Ostenso's second novel appeared close on the heels of her very successful Wild Geese. Neither this nor any of Ostenso's later novels were received as well, and Wild Geese is the only one of her works in print today. Novelist George Barr McCutcheon's archive, which includes numerous books from his personal library, resides at the Harry Ransom Center.