Mary Virginia Terhune was a celebrated writer on domestic economy. Her pen name “Marian Harland” was a household word during her lifetime. She was known for her charming combination of “home making” with literary work. She possessed a masterful way of making duties fit each other without fuss.
Mary was born on December 21, 1830 in Dennisville , Virginia , as Mary Virginia Hawes. Though her parents were natives of New England , she grew up in Amelia County and was well educated by private tutors and by using her father’s private library. While pursuing her studies, Mary showed marked literary ability. At fourteen years old she began to contribute to a weekly paper in Richmond , Virginia . At sixteen she wrote “Marrying Through Prudential Motives”, which was so popular that it was published in England and translated into French and finally retranslated into English and published again. Finally it reappeared in the United States in its altered form.
In 1856 Mary wed the Reverend Edward Payson Terhune and they settled in Newark , New Jersey . While taking care of her home and her several children, as well as participating in church activities, Mary continued to write. She did not always write along home lines, but wrote several novels including “Alone”, a tale of Southern life and manners, “ “The Hidden Path”, and “True as Steel”. From 1876 to 1878, due to her ill health, she and Edward traveled in Europe . They lived in Springfield , Massachusetts from 1878 – 1884 and Brooklyn , New York , from 1884, her husband being the pastor of the Puritan Congregational Church in Brooklyn .
From the publication of her book “Common Sense in the Household” in 1871, Mary enjoyed an almost separate career as a writer of books on homemaking and related topic. She wrote syndicated columns on women’s issues for the Philadelphia North American and Chicago Tribune.
Mary also became widely known as a lecturer before Woman’s Councils on “The Kitchen as a Moral Agency”, “Our Sons and Our Daughters”, and “How to Grow Old Gracefully”. Mary Virginia Terhune died in New York City on June 3, 1922 at the age of 91.