Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Ann Lane Petry was born to Peter Clarke Lane and Bertha James Lane on October 12, 1908, joining a family that had lived for several generations as the only black citizens of Old Saybook, Connecticut. The descendant of a runaway Virginian slave, Petry never felt herself to be a true New Englander; her cultural legacy was not that of the typical Yankee, and as a small child she came to know the effects of racism upon being stoned by white children on her first day of school.
Nevertheless, her family distinguished itself within the community and boasted numerous professionals: Her grandfather became a licensed chemist, her father, aunt, and uncle became pharmacists, and her mother became a chiropodist. Inspired by the examples of independent women relatives, Ann pursued a degree in pharmacology from the University of Connecticut and graduated as the only black student in the class of 1931. She worked in family-owned pharmacies until 1938, when she married George D. Petry and moved to New York City.
There, Petry began her writing career and quickly secured jobs with various newspapers. Participation in a creative writing seminar at Columbia University greatly influenced her during this period. Her first published short story, “On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon,” appeared in a 1943 issue of The Crisis and led to Petry’s receipt of the 1945 Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship. With that financial support, she completed The...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Petry analyzes the American scene from a variety of angles, always exposing the debilitating impact of its hierarchical social systems and capitalistic materialism. Like her contemporaries, she recorded the daunting obstacles to human fulfillment facing those on the margins of American prosperity, and yet hers is finally a Christian existentialist vision celebrating the individual’s potential for spiritual liberation through which an entire culture might relinquish its crippling prejudices. Her examination of gender as another locus of oppression laid important groundwork for the writings of African American women since the 1960’s.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Ann Lane Petry was born to Peter Clarke Lane and Bertha James Lane on October 12, 1908, joining a family that had lived for several generations as the only African American citizens of the resort community of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The descendant of a runaway Virginian slave, Petry admitted to never having felt herself to be a true New Englander; her cultural legacy was not that of the typical Yankee, and as a small child she came to know the isolating effects of racism after being stoned by white children on her first day of school. Nevertheless, her family distinguished itself within the community and boasted numerous professionals: Her grandfather was a licensed chemist; her father, aunt, and uncle became pharmacists; and her mother worked as a chiropodist. In 1902 Peter Lane opened a pharmacy in Old Saybrook, for which Ann herself trained. Inspired by the example of her many independent female relatives—women who had, she explained, “abandoned the role of housewife in the early twentieth century”—in 1931 Ann secured a degree in pharmacology from the University of Connecticut, the only black graduate in her class. She worked in family-owned pharmacies until 1938, when she met and married Louisiana-born George D. Petry and moved with him to his home in Harlem.
Petry had begun writing fiction seriously in high school after an antagonistic teacher grudgingly praised her work as having real potential, and she wrote steadily thereafter (although...
(The entire section is 884 words.)
Ann Lane Petry was born in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, to one of the town’s two African American families. Her father owned the village drugstore. A 1931 graduate of the University of Connecticut College of Pharmacy, for a time Petry operated the pharmacy in Old Lyme, one of two family-owned pharmacies. Petry grew up listening to stories of the African American experience told by family, visiting friends, and relatives.
In 1938 Ann Lane was married to George Petry; they moved to New York City. Petry left the pharmacy to follow a family tradition of storytelling. She worked for two Harlem newspapers, the Amsterdam News and People’s Voice. Petry’s first published work, “Marie of the Cabin Club,” a tale of romance and suspense, appeared under the pseudonym Arnold Petri in a Baltimore weekly newspaper.
In 1943, “On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon,” appeared in Crisis, a magazine founded by W. E. B. Du Bois. This story brought her to the attention of a book editor, who encouraged Petry to apply for the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship. In 1945, Petry entered and won the award. Her entry would become the first chapters of the novel The Street.
Petry returned to Old Saybrook in 1947, the debut year of her second novel, Country Place. In 1949, Petry launched a career as a children’s and young adults’ writer with The Drugstore Cat. Other works for children and...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Ann Petry (PEE-tree) was born Ann Lane, the younger of two daughters of Peter and Bertha Lane in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Her father and his sister, the first black pharmacists in the community, owned the drugstore that employed Lane when she graduated from Connecticut College of Pharmacy in 1931. In 1938 she married George Petry and moved to New York City, where she worked as a journalist in Harlem and enrolled at Columbia University. After many rejections she sold a short story to Crisis, where two further stories appeared in 1945. At about this time Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company took an interest in her work and subsequently awarded her the Houghton Mifflin Fellowship Award for her novel The Street.
The Street, following the example of Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), portrays a ghetto inhabitant who responds to a hopeless situation with an act of violence. In this case the protagonist is a Harlem woman, Lutie Johnson, who kills a bandleader who tries to seduce her. Lutie has attempted to escape from her impoverished existence by becoming a singer but discovers that she is regarded merely as property by those who exploit her. The killing is symbolic of the danger inherent in a racially segregated society, where violence is a form of self-assertion against a seemingly omnipotent enemy. Like other novels in the naturalistic tradition of the 1940’s, The Street is both a warning and a plea that the...
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Born in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, circa 1908, Ann Lane Petry initially followed a family tradition of pharmaceutical practice, graduating from the college of pharmacy at the University of Connecticut and practicing for four years before moving to New York to pursue her literary and journalistic interests. After working for four years as an advertising salesperson and writer at the Amsterdam News New York bureau, she left to work as a reporter and woman's page editor for People's Voice, another New York publication.
Petry's first literary work was a short story published in 1943 in the Crisis, the official publication for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The following year, she participated in a project designed to study the effects of segregation on ghetto children. Following the publication of short stories in Phylon and the Crisis, Petry won a fellowship from Houghton Mifflin publishing company in 1945.
Thematically, Petry's work has focused on class and gender distinctions. Her short story "Like a Winding Sheet," about a male who beats his wife after confronting prejudice outside the home, was included in Best American Short Stories of 1946. Petry's novels have also received considerable critical acclaim. The Street (1946), considered by some to be her most impressive novel, dramatizes the limitations and consequences of ghetto life. Country Life (1947),...
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