Mary Hastings Bradley, and the literary debut of James Tiptree Jr
November 6, 2013 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Mary Hastings Bradley (1882 – 1976) was a writer from a young age (Google books), publishing articles as early as high school. She was also a traveler and explorer, bringing back views of the wider world to American readers, first with The Palace of Darkened Windows and The Fortieth Door, both inspired by her trip to Egypt, where she took note of the purdah system of the veiled and secluded women. These books were made into movies in 1920 and 1924, respectively. After marrying Herbert Edwin Bradley, a lawyer and big game hunter, traveler and explorer, she traveled to Africa with her husband and other explorers, and the couple later took their daughter, Alice. Mary wrote stories from these experiences, including stories about Alice's adventures, providing the literary debut for her daughter, who would later take up the nom de plume of James Tiptree, Jr., in part as an effort to move out of the shadow cast by her mother.

While many of Mrs. Bradley's books can be found digitized on, unfortunately her two books specifically written about Alice's adventures in Africa (Alice in Jungleland and Alice in Elephantland) are not.

Additional writings from Mary Hastings Bradley can be found here, including news and journal articles, plus reviews of her works. Mrs. Bradley's writing spanned five decades, perhaps best known in her later years for I Passed For White, a book and later a movie, supposedly told to Bradley by Reba Lee.
posted by filthy light thief (5 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for this wonderful post!
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:28 AM on November 6, 2013

I saw a movie made from one of Bradley's books when I was a boy I(I Passed for White). It was more than a little interesting to me at the time. Contemporary reviews have not treated it kindly. Looking back, I am more than a little amused to notice that a white woman played the leading role. It's interesting to note that I wasn't aware who wrote the book on which the movie was based. A double whammy I guess, for an old primate who likes irony.

The daughter, Alice, remains one of my favorite writers. Tiptree's coming out as a woman writer added another barb to her arsenal. I was delighted to see the anecdote about her as an infant in Africa: baby Jesus.
posted by mule98J at 9:23 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nice post! You might also be interested in this fascinating biography of Alice / James Tiptree Jr. It tells the flipside of the mother / daughter story, as well as all sorts of other wonderful SF / gender swapping stuff.
posted by ZipRibbons at 9:42 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alice in Jungleland (@ Hathi Trust)
posted by stbalbach at 9:47 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

mile89J, the book that ZipRibbons mentions (titled James Tiptree, Jr.; The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, which was also mentioned/posted previously, and also well-covered on NPR back in 2006) goes in more depth about Alice's experiences in Africa, how they likely shaped who she would become, and her future science fiction writing.

stbalbach, thanks for that link! I keep forgetting about Hathi Trust! I wonder how they get books that Google has digitized, but only offers in snippet view. Sadly, their collection of Mary's writings is otherwise less inclusive than's (repetitive) collection.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2013

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