Alden Ludlow, contract archivist
March 21, 2019
In celebrating Women’s History Month, the Wellesley Historical Society acknowledges the contributions of generations of extraordinary women who have made Wellesley the town it is today. Their unparalleled community engagement resulted in a proliferation of social, civic, and arts organizations over the last century and a half which continue to be the lifeblood of the town.
This month we would like to highlight the life of Eleanor Mary Early (1895-1969), a noteworthy and independent Wellesleyite who, in her time, was an accomplished journalist, travel writer, and novelist. Though her brother James “Jack” Early is better known, Eleanor’s life was far more compelling.
Eleanor’s parents, James A. Early and Sarah Jane Dolan, were married at St. John’s Church, Wellesley, in 1891. They had seven children, six of whom survived until adulthood. Eleanor was the oldest. The family moved to the Wellesley area, buying a plot of land in Wellesley Hills in October 1904; they built the family home, which was at 93 Washington Street, and had a grocery business in Newton Lower Falls. All of the children attended Wellesley public schools.
Eleanor Mary Early born in Newton in 1895, and grew up in the family home in Wellesley. She attended Wellesley schools, and graduated from Wellesley High School; her notebooks and school papers reveal a thorough and diligent student who loved to write. When her brother, Jack, went off to fight in World War I, the two carried on an extensive correspondence that reveals her love and wit.
After graduating from Wellesley High School, she attended Wheelock College (then Miss Wheelock’s College), and graduated in 1917, certified to be a teacher. But she enjoyed writing above all, and almost immediately pursued a career as a writer and journalist in Boston. She wrote for the Boston Herald-Traveler, the Boston Post, the Record American, and the Boston Globe. In the late 1930s she left Boston to join the staff of the New York Times. She also lived for a time in Washington, D.C. She traveled extensively, and those experiences informed her writing, which extended beyond newspaper reporting; she also was a radio commentator and magazine columnist.
She wrote books on travel, cooking, and history, as well as novels. Some of her lauded works at the time include Adirondack Tales (1939), New England Cookbook(1954), Washington Holiday (1955), Behold the White Mountains (1935), and Boston Yesterday and Today (1939). Early in career she wrote a series of travel books, which included And this is Boston! (1930) as well as And this is Washington! (1934), among others. Most of her books were published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Throughout her life Eleanor travelled the globe, reporting as a journalist, writing travel pieces, and working on her novels. Independent and adventurous, she never married; she returned to Boston just a few years before her death in 1969. Eleanor Early’s papers form a significant part of the Wellesley Historical Society’s Early Family Papers.
— Alden R. Ludlow, WHS archivist
The Early Family Papers were processed in March 2018 with generous grant support from the Wellesley Community Preservation Commission (CPC) and the Massachusetts’s State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB).