Illinois poet, playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer.
Dorothy Minerva Dow was born in 1897 in Lockport, Illinois, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Gund Dow. She began writing poems as a child, and although she continued to write a great deal of poetry throughout her long life, she first found success as a writer of pulp fiction and newspaper articles and reviews.
Living in Chicago in the early 1920s, as a youthful poet Dow was encouraged by well-known poet Edgar Lee Masters and prominent artist John Warner Norton, two men among many who found her talented, intelligent and extremely attractive. In 1924, Dow published her first volume of verse entitled Black Babylon, followed by Will-o-the-Wisp in 1925. Both books received only mixed reviews, and Dow never achieved the great fame as a poet that she craved. Her friendship with Masters waned, and in 1925 she married a physician, James E. Fitzgerald.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the scope of Dow’s interests widened, and she wrote plays, novels, short stories, biographies and even a cookbook. The influence of Edgar Lee Masters still inspired her to continue to write poetry and they renewed communication until his death. Dow’s last published work was a novel in 1947. Her health continued to decline in her 60s, a time when she worked on a long biographical poem finally titled Flowers of Time. As she grew older, her many later poems reflect her anger and sadness at the loss of her youthful activities and beauty.
Sometime during the 1960s or 1970s, Dow had bound together typescripts of her most insightful and interesting writings: literary essays entitled titled The American Muse, An Informal Study of American Letters, 1890-1947. Dow’s husband died in 1969, and for the next twenty years she lived in various Chicago locations, continuing to write and also to amass a large and impressive book collection.
Dorothy Dow died in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1989 at the age of 91.
Her correspondence is housed in Chicago’s Newberry Library.