Texas Women Authors: Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey


Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

“I know now one must plan one’s old age as surely as one plans any other stage of life. The tragedy of Cousin Josie’s life is that she never knew what she wanted at any age—only what she did not want. She never wanted to marry nor to pursue a career, and in life, unlike grammar, double negatives do not produce an affirmative.” Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, A Woman Of Independent Means 

Elizabeth started her writing career as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Later, while her husband was getting an MFA from Yale in drama, she was an assistant editor at Yale University Press. She collaborated with him on plays produced in New York and later in Hollywood on the soap opera Love of Life.

When her youngest daughter began school, she began writing in earnest, first Letters from a Runaway Wife, a novel abandoned to write about her grandmother. Her epistolary novel, A Woman of Independent Means, was based on her grandmother’s travel diaries and sold over a million copies. Published in 1978, the year she turned forty, it received the Silver Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California for best debut novel and nominated by the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters for best work of fiction.


Her second book, Life Sentences, received mixed reviews but remained on the New York Times best-seller list for fourteen weeks. It looked at the choices a forty-two year old woman makes when she decides to not to terminate a high-risk pregnancy, the result of being raped.


Joanna’s Husband and David’s Wife, Hailey’s third novel, explores one of Hailey’s favorite topics: marriage and its effects on each partner. On the day she meets David, Joanna begins a journal that she keeps until she leaves David twenty-five years later. To help her daughter understand her decisions, Joanna leaves the journal behind. David finds the journal before the daughter does, and not wishing his wife’s version of their marriage to be the sole input, he reads the journal and adds his input.


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