Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Biography

Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 1, 1871 the youngest of fourteen children of the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Townley Crane and Mary Helen Peck Crane. Stephens father was a dedicated Methodist minister who wrote sermons and tracts condemning the evils of tobacco, alcohol and prostitution – vices that Stephen would embrace later in life. His mother was an equally passionate proselytizer of virtue and was a leading figure in the Womens Christian Temperance Union.
When Dr. Crane died in 1880, Stephens mother took her youngest son to Asbury Park, NJ and at seventeen years of age he began to help his brother with his press service. He attended Syracuse University where he distinguished himself only as a baseball player. After attending a few classes he left school and moved to New York City where he tried but failed to make his way as a newspaper reporter. During this time his mother died and Stephen managed to publish some pieces entitled “Sullivan County Sketches.” Stephen continued to live hand-to-mouth in the city and managed to complete Maggie: A Girl of the Streets during this time. Although publishers balked at the barren and experimental story that held none of the didacticism popular in slum stories of the day, Crane published the work himself under the pseudonym Johnston Smith in 1893. He gave away many more copies than he sold but the story attracted the attention of two literary giants – Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells – who recognized the young authors talent and supported him.
A year later Cranes novel The Red Badge of Courage appeared as a syndicated story in 750 papers. The success of the serial ensured that Crane would have work whenever he wanted it. In the following years he was sent as a correspondent to the West where he wrote “the Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” and “The Blue Hotel”. In 1895 The Red Badge of Courage was published as a novel and enjoyed immediate popularity for its realistic portrayal of warfare. The next year a sanitized version of Maggie was reprinted and many other notable works followed including The Little Regiment and Georges Mother.
Crane went to Cuba as a correspondent and later formed a romantic attachment to Cora Taylor, a well-known madam and brothel keeper of the Hotel de Dream. While in the Caribbean, Crane had the experience of having a ship sunk from underneath him, an event he memorialized in his story “The Open Boat”. The year 1897 found him on the front of the Greco-Turkish war from which he sent dispatches to newspapers. Afterward, Stephen and Cora moved to England for awhile where Crane associated with many of the well-known writers of the day but in 1898 he returned to the Caribbean to cover the Spanish-American war for the New York World. He and Cora returned to England in 1899 where Crane, deeply in debt and suffering from tuberculosis, completed several works and struggled to earn money. He died of the disease at a sanatorium in Germany on June 5, 1900.