Rushing, Mabel Jane Gilmore (1925–1997)

By: Rebecca Matthews

Type: Biography

Published: April 30, 2021

Updated: May 1, 2021


Font size: A / A reset

Jane Gilmore Rushing was a journalist, educator, and fiction writer, whose strong affinity for the people and landscape of West Texas informed her writing for much of her career. She was born on November 15, 1925, in her maternal grandmother’s home in Pyron, Scurry County, Texas, and was the only child of Clyde Preston Gilmore and Mabel Irene (Adams) Gilmore. Both the Gilmore and Adams families had deep roots in the small cotton-growing Pyron community located on the edge of the rolling plains. Her father had traveled by covered wagon to the area in 1897 when he was three years old; his family was among the earliest settlers in the area. The Adams family ran the general store and post office in Pyron as early as 1904. Her father’s storytelling skills likely influenced and inspired her desire to write. From childhood she also learned to love the landscape and later wrote that her relationship with the country where she was raised was as “tenacious as the mesquite.”

At the age of fifteen, Jane Gilmore graduated from Pyron High School in 1941. She earned a B. A. in journalism in 1944 and an M. A. in 1945 from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock, Texas. In the following years, she worked as a reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News and the Snyder Daily News and taught at Snyder High School and Levelland High School. In 1954, while working on her doctorate, she became an instructor at Texas Technological College, where she met James Arthur “Jay” Rushing, a fellow instructor. The two married on November 29, 1956, in Lubbock. That year she also received a fellowship from the American Association of University Women. She received her Ph.D. in English literature from Texas Technological College in 1957. The couple briefly moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where her husband completed his doctorate from the University of Tennessee. They returned to Lubbock, where Jane again taught at Texas Tech until the mid-1970s. The couple had one son, James Arthur Rushing, Jr., who was born in October 1958 in Tennessee.

Rushing’s career writing fiction began in 1961 when her short story “Against the Moon” won second place in the Emily Clark Balch Award contest and was published in Virginia Quarterly Review. Her first novel, Walnut Grove, was published by Doubleday Press in 1964 and was set in a fictional town that closely resembled Pyron. She published five more novels set in Walnut Grove: Against the Moon (1968), Tamzen (1972), Mary Dove (1974), The Raincrow (1977), and Winds of Blame (1983). A self-admitted regionalist, Rushing believed she could make the truest statement about the world by examining the place and people she knew best, so she wrote about the family and community dynamics in a rural West Texas town from early settlement to the community’s demise in the late twentieth century. Though she clearly loved the land and people of West Texas, she was never sentimental in her portrayals. She did not flinch from showing the people’s flaws as well as their strengths.

Rushing was raised Methodist, though she was not much of a churchgoer as an adult. She was, however, fascinated by the fundamentalist denominations that were prevalent in Pyron. In her fiction, she examined the impact of religious beliefs on the attitudes of people in West Texas, some of whom developed what she called the “looks-of-the-thing” morality, wherein appearances were more important than truth. The impact of such judgmental thinking on those who did not fit in was often devastating. This theme was revisited in Covenant of Grace (1982), a novel about colonial New England religious dissident Anne Hutchinson. It was the only Rushing novel not set in Texas. Rushing also wrote one nonfiction book, Starting From Pyron (1992), and, with Kline A. Nall, co-authored Evolution of a University: Texas Tech’s First Fifty Years (1975).

Jane Rushing was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 1969. She received the LeBaron R. Barker Award from her publisher, Doubleday, for her 1974 novel Mary Dove. For Winds of Blame in 1983, she received the Texas Literature Award from the Dallas Times Herald and the Southwest Booksellers Association.

Jane Gilmore Rushing died on July 4, 1997, in Lubbock, Texas, and was buried in City of Lubbock Cemetery next to her husband. In 2006 Lou Halsell Rodenberger, in her biography on Rushing, Jane Gilmore Rushing: A West Texas Writer and Her Work, published by Texas Tech University Press, remembered Rushing as a “quiet and unassuming” individual with a “discerning eye and understanding heart,” whose relatively short career as a novelist deservedly won literary critic and reviewers praise.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

Sylvia Ann Grider and Lou Halsell Rodenberger, eds., Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997). Lou H. Rodenberger, Jane Gilmore Rushing, Western Writers Series No. 118 (Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1995). Lou Halsell Rodenberger, Jane Gilmore Rushing: A West Texas Writer and Her Work (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2000). Jane Gilmore Rushing, “People and Place,” The Writer, September 1969. Jane Gilmore Rushing, Starting from Pyron (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press 1992).

Categories:

  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism
  • Women
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Awards and Honors
  • Fiction

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

Places:

  • West Texas
  • Lubbock

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

Rebecca Matthews, “Rushing, Mabel Jane Gilmore,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 21, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rushing-mabel-jane-gilmore.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

April 30, 2021
May 1, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

Loading