Collection: Jean Stafford

Jean Stafford (1915–1979) was born in Covina, California, the youngest of four children. When she was five her father, an unsuccessful writer of Westerns, lost the bulk of his inherited fortune on the stock exchange. The impoverished family, forced to move, eventually resettled in Boulder, Colorado. Stafford excelled as a student, earning both a BA and an MA in four years on a scholarship at the University of Colorado, but her college years were marked by poverty as well as by the suicide of her friend Lucy McKee, who shot herself in Stafford’s presence. Following her graduation, Stafford spent a year abroad studying philology at the University of Heidelberg, and shortly after her return she met the poet Robert Lowell, whom she married in New York City in 1940. In 1944 she published her first book, Boston Adventure, which became a best seller, and in 1947 The Mountain Lion, her most highly acclaimed book. Stafford was also a gifted writer of short stories, and by 1948, the year in which she received a Guggenheim fellowship, her work was regularly appearing in The New Yorker. Divorced from Lowell in 1948, Stafford remarried twice—to Life editor Oliver Jensen and to the writer A. J. Liebling. In 1952 Stafford published a third novel, The Catherine Wheel, and in 1970 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her Collected Stories. She suffered a stroke in 1976 and died three years later in White Plains, New York, leaving her entire estate to her cleaning woman.

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