Biographical Information:

Dates: 1903-1977
Dates in Ridgefield: 1942-1962

non-fiction writer, critic, scholar, biographer, teacher, book reviewer

Lillian Barnard Gilkes was a nationally recognized scholar, author and critic whose notoriety here was chiefly civic and political. "When I came to Ridgefield in 1942," she recalled, "the Democratic Party was underground; to be a Democrat carried a social stigma: merchants and tradespeople suffered a loss of business if affiliation with the minority party became known." She worked on presidential and congressional races and in 1947, helped Harry E. Hull become the first Democratic first selectman in decades. "It may truly be said, I think, that Harry Hull's leadership throughout that time has been a positive force in bringing about a more equitable balance of power between the parties in Ridgefield, certainly a much healthier state of things, if the two-party system is indeed the keystone of our political democracy." Born in 1903 in Jacksonville, Fla., Miss Gilkes studied and taught at Columbia and Hunter College, specializing in the short story. Her textbook, Short Story Craft, was used for decades, but she was most known for her book, Cora Crane: A Biography of Mrs. Stephen Crane. Cora, a well-born Bostonian who ran "the smartest ‘sporting house’ in Jacksonville," had nursed writer Stephen Crane to health after a shipwreck, and became his common-law wife. Miss Gilkes also wrote acclaimed short stories as well as book reviews for Saturday Review and, in town, was active in civic and charitable work besides politics. Around 1962, she moved to Tryon, N.C., where she died in 1977 at the age of 74, with three books unfinished.

Short Story Craft, 1949
Cora Crane: A Biography of Mrs. Stephen Crane, 1962
--Sources: Notable Ridgefielders-Jack Sanders; Amazon