Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ida M. Kier (1879-1963)

Author, Poet, Cashier
Born July 1, 1879, Marshall County, Indiana
Died June 13, 1963, King City, Missouri

Ida Mae (or May) Bosworth was born on July 1, 1879, in Marshall County, Indiana, to Parmenus Bosworth and his second wife, Arrilla E. Pittsenbarger Allen Bosworth. In about 1888, Mr. Bosworth took his family by covered wagon to King City in Gentry County, Missouri. According to a contributor called NMF on the website Find A Grave, he returned with his son to Marshall County, leaving his wife and daughters behind. King City was a fairly young city even then. It had been settled in 1856 by John Pittsenbarger. I assume that Armilla E. Pittsenbarger Allen Bosworth and John Pittsenbarger were related somehow, and that's how Ida Mae Bosworth became a Missourian.

Ida M. Bosworth married John Walker Young Kier (1867-1944), probably around the turn of the century or shortly thereafter. They had three children, Thelma, Dale, and Dwight. The Kier family lived in Missouri during the early part of the twentieth century. In 1940, Ida was enumerated in Hastings, Nebraska, with her daughter Thelma. "Mrs. Kier's remarkable life," wrote the Gentry County News, "was a lesson in pluck and perseverance to all who knew her. She had been crippled since babyhood [with poliomyelitis]. She went through grade school and high school here on a crutch, and for years she was a cashier of the old Levy & Mayer Merc. Co. here. She married and reared a fine family and, confined to her home and wheel-chair, became a prolific writer of magazine stories and verse, using her earnings to support and educate her three children."

Ida Kier's mother, Arrilla Bosworth, died on June 4, 1917. Not long afterwards, Ida sold her first story, "Gift of the Lightning," to The People's Home Journal. The story was also syndicated in national newspapers. Over the next decade or so, Ida wrote for other magazines, including Blue Moon, Comfort, Cupid's Diary, Holland's, The Home Friend, Love Romances, Love Story Magazine, Table TalkTelling Tales, Youth's Companion, and a number of Sunday school papers such as Christian Herald and New-Church Messenger. Her poem, "My Mottoes," proved very popular and was reprinted in several magazines, including The Bridgeman's Magazine, Railroad Telegrapher, and Machinist's Monthly Journal. It begins with mention of the poet's mother.

In 1921, Ida wrote something about herself and how she composed her stories in an article called "Contemporary Writers and Their Work: A Series of Autobiographical Letters." (In The Editor, Mar. 18, 1921, pp. 25-27, accessible by clicking here.) "I prefer to write," she explained, "and believe I can do my best work, on dreary days or wild stormy nights." Dreary days and stormy nights may have suited her moods. Moreover, they may have symbolized in some way the events of her life and career, the latter of which began at about the time her mother died and nearly came to an end ten years later when a horrible tragedy befell her family.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that American literature is not easily separable from Gothicism. That literature of course has grown out of the American experience. Since colonial days it has often elided into fantasy and weird fiction. In any event, a Gothic kind of violence entered the life of Ida M. Kier on November 11, 1927, when her half-brother, Henry Peter Allen, murdered his wife and son at their Gentry County farm before killing himself. I wonder if Ida's encounter with madness and violence had any bearing on her writing. Whatever its effect, two of Ida's last published works (according to The FictionMags Index) came in January 1928, just two months after the murders. Presumably they had been accepted for publication before the tragedy. The last (or presumably the last), her short story "Together" for Weird Tales, was published more than seven years later, in June 1935.

Ida M. Kier died on June 13, 1963, in King City, Missouri, at age eighty-three. She was buried in King City Cemetery.

Ida M. Kier's Story in Weird Tales
"Together" (June 1935)

Further Reading
None known.

Cupid's Diary for February 10, 1926 (No. 81), the last issue before St. Valentine's Day that year. Ida M. Kier's novel, Romance Comes to the Wilderness, appeared in this issue. The cover is beautifully done. Unfortunately we don't know the name of the artist. 

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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