Frances Parkinson Keyes’s writing career began with the publishing of The Old Gray Homestead in 1919, and she would occasionally pen an article for magazines like the Atlantic Monthly or The Penwoman during the early twentieth century.
Her real foray into the literary world began as a result of opposition to her husband Henry Keyes’s political positions. In 1920, Frederick Bigelow, the editor of Good Housekeeping wrote to Henry, a senator from New Hampshire, asking him to support the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, and asked if he would write something for the magazine. Henry did not support the bill, believing it to be something the states should deal with, and threw the letter away. Frances took it out of the garbage and, with Henry’s permission, wrote Bigelowe back in support of the bill. She had worked for a period with the Red Cross and knew firsthand that states did not provide adequate maternity and child healthcare. Bigelowe was so impressed with her response and, upon finding out that she was close friends with the Secretary of Agriculture in addition to many other officials, enlisted Keyes to write an article in support of the bill. She went above and beyond the call of duty and in addition to the article gave a speech to Congress advocating the bill.
Afterwards, Frances was slated as a regular contributor to the magazine from 1921 until the mid 1930s, and she began writing a social and political column for Good Housekeeping called “Letters from a Senator’s Wife.” Frances was also sent to cover a Pan-American conference held in Baltimore, and the ninth congress of the International Suffrage Alliance. After a tour of Europe which included meeting Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and being introduced at the Court of St. James, Frances was made the foreign correspondent for Good Housekeeping, proving popular among her readers and those she was writing about.
This began a whirlwind life of travel, and she would visit every continent except Australia and Antarctica. She published twelve more books and nearly an article a month throughout the 1920s, discussing her travels, the people she met, current events, and her thoughts on literature and women’s issues. At the same time, she was contributing to other magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and The Delineator. Both magazines featured women’s fashion, current events, and fiction and The Delineator was one of the most popular magazines of the early 20th century because of its emphasis fashion and fiction. Frances was so successful that her income eventually superseded that of her husband, something that gave her great personal satisfaction.
All Flags Flying – Frances Parkinson Keyes
Home Economics: Archives, Research, Tradition, History – Frances Keyes – Cornell University
Popular Women’s Magazines in the United States 1792 – 1995 – Mary Ellen Zuckerman
Popular Magazines 1880 -1960 – David Reed
Keyes, Frances. All Flags Flying. 1972.