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Ferber, Edna (1887–1968)

Teresa Palomo Acosta Biography Entry

Edna Ferber, novelist, was born on August 15, 1887, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Jacob Charles and Julia (Neumann) Ferber. Her father was a Jewish immigrant from Hungary. The family left Kalamazoo when Edna was three years old to live in Chicago for a year. Afterward, they spent seven years in Ottumwa, Iowa, and finally settled in Appleton, Wisconsin, where she graduated from Ryan High School. She became the first female reporter for the Appleton Crescent, although she had no desire to be a writer. Her work on the high school newspaper and her publication of a feature article on the confirmation service at Temple Emanu-El in Appleton had impressed the Crescent's editor. After she was fired by a new editor who did not care for her style of writing, Ferber was offered a job with the Milwaukee Journal. She took a leave from her duties at the Journal due to illness and returned to her family's home in Appleton to recuperate. There she started writing and selling her short stories and began work on her first novel, Dawn O'Hara, The Girl Who Laughed (1911). Although she later covered such political events as the Democratic and Republican national conventions on special assignment, she never again worked as a full-time newspaper reporter. So Big (1924), the first of four western novels, won the Pulitzer Prize. Giant (1952), another western novel, was set on a fictitious South Texas ranch. Ferber wove into the story themes of the exploitation of human labor and land by arrogant landowners. Giant was viewed with dismay by some Texans upon its publication. Despite some bad reviews, the book became a best-seller, as did many other of Ferber's works. In fact, the film rights to nine of her books were sold to Hollywood. In 1955 the movie Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson, was filmed on a ranch near Marfa. The movie was a box-office success and has been rereleased on several occasions and shown on network television. Edna Ferber wrote several other novels, eleven short-story collections, nine plays, two autobiographies, and one screenplay. She died on April 16, 1968, a few months before her eighty-first birthday. At her funeral service in New York City, she was eulogized as "a gallant, dauntless, irrepressible champion" of "great causes." Her body was cremated.

Edna Ferber, A Peculiar Treasure (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1939). Julie Goldsmith Gilbert, Ferber, A Biography (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1978). Mary Rose Shaughnessy, Women and Success in American Society in the Works of Edna Ferber (New York: Gordon Press, 1977). Twentieth-Century Western Writers (Detroit: Gale Research, 1982; 2d ed., Chicago: St. James Press, 1991). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Authors and Writers
  • Poets
  • Women

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Teresa Palomo Acosta, “Ferber, Edna,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 23, 2021,

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January 1, 1995
May 18, 2016

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