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"The Lamplighter" by Maria S. Cummins

When I came across the following review of The Lamplighter from Erica Bauermeister's 500 Great Books by Women, I knew I had to include this ebook on the site. The Lamplighter may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

Second only in sales to Uncle Tom's Cabin during the nineteenth century, The Lamplighter is almost completely unknown today, its very popularity having been used to condemn it in literary critical circles. It tells the story of the development of a young, orphaned girl into a resilient, capable young woman who gets her man - her childhood compatriot - but does just fine on her own, thank you, until he returns at the end of the book from his quest to make his fortune overseas. When the reader first meets Gerty she is an orphaned hellion, physically and mentally abused by the brutal and miserly Nan Grant: "No one loved her, and she loved no one; no one treated her kindly; no one tried to make her happy, or cared whether she were so. She was but eight years old and all alone in the world." Gerty is rescued by Trueman Flint, a kindly lamplighter who teaches her about love and respect. A second teacher enters in the form of saintly, blind Emily Graham, who brings a reverence for God into Gerty's life. But while both teachers attempt to tame Gerty's wildness, grown-up Gertrude still retains the backbone and energy that made her such an endearing character to nineteenth-century readers. Gertrude's willingness to defy male and female authority, her courage in emergencies, her rejection of suitors, her loyalty to female friends, and her resourcefulness during hard times make her a strong and inspiring woman in any century.


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