New blog post by Becca Anderson, author of “The Book of Awesome Women Writers.”

Pearl Buck was born in West Virginia in 1892 to the Sydenstricker family, deeply religious people who dedicated their lives to missionary work. They chose to spread the word of Christianity in China, and Pearl spent a good portion of her girlhood there. She attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia, but after she graduated hurried back to Asia with her teaching certificate.

She made her living as a teacher until she married John Buck, a fellow American and an agriculturist. They married in 1917 and lived in northern China among the peasants. The Bucks had one child, born mentally handicapped, and adopted another child during Pearl’s tenure at the University of Nanking. In 1922, she started writing during the long hours she spent caring for her ailing mother. Her very first story was published in Asia magazine three years later. Pearl Buck returned to the United States to seek proper care for her daughter and studied for her master’s degree at Cornell. Later, she taught at three different universities in China until anti-foreigner sentiments became unavoidable. While fleeing violence in 1927, Pearl lost the manuscript for her first novel. Still, she continued, publishing East Wind: West Wind in 1930, followed the next year by The Good Earth.

The Good Earth was a global phenomenon from the beginning; in 1932, it  won the Pulitzer Prize. A stage play was also written, as well as a script for the Academy Award-winning film. Pearl Buck was a huge success and saw her book translated into dozens of languages and selling millions of copies. In 1935, she left her adopted country, divorced her husband, and returned to the United States. Soon after, she married her publisher, Richard J. Walsh, but that didn’t stop her writing. While her success was generally more popular than critical, that all changed in 1938 when she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize. Buck was an amazingly prolific writer who once wrote five books in one year, penning more than eighty-five books in all. Her work includes plays, biographies, books for children, translations, and an autobiography as well as novels. She continued to write novels and articles through her entire life.

During the McCarthy years, she came under suspicion and was forced to write under the pseudonym John Sedges, but she never wavered in her essential beliefs of tolerance and understanding. She founded the East and West Association and was the president of the Author’s Guild, a free speech organization founded in the 1950s. She also created an organization to care for orphaned children of Asian mothers and American fathers and adopted six such orphans herself. A champion of women’s rights and rights for the mentally handicapped, she died of lung cancer in 1973 in her home of Danby, Vermont. She was a fierce crusader for greater mutual understanding for the people of the world, and with her Nobel Prize in Literature, she opened a new chapter for women in literature.



The Book of awesome women writers

Medieval Mystics, Pioneering Poets, Fierce Feminists and First Ladies of Literature (Feminist Book, Gift for Women, Gift for Writers)

This one-of-a-kind tome takes a tour with Sylvia Beach and other booksellers as well as librarians, editors, writers, bibliophiles, and celebrated book clubs. Join women’s studies scholar Anders as she takes you on a ribald ride through the pages of history. Chapter titles include “Prolific Pens” (including Joyce Carol Oates, author of over 100 books), “Mystics, Memoirists and Madwomen”, “Salons and Neosalons”, “Ink in Their Veins” (literary dynasties), and the titillating “Banned, Blacklisted, and Arrested.”

Scroll to Top