Mary Roberts Rinehart, born Mary Roberts, was reared in Pittsburgh. Her father was an unsuccessful salesman, and her mother took in roomers. At fifteen, Mary was editing her high school newspaper and writing stories for Pittsburgh Press contests. In 1893 she entered nurse’s training at a hospital whose public wards teemed with immigrants, industrial workers, and local prostitutes. In 1895 her father committed suicide. Mary Roberts completed her training and, in April, 1896, married a young physician, Stanley Rinehart.
In the next six years she had three sons, helped with her husband’s medical practice, and looked for a means of self-expression. By 1904 she was selling short stories to Munsey’s Magazine, Argosy, and other magazines. The Circular Staircase was published, and The Man in Lower Ten (1909) became the first detective story ever to make the annual best-seller list.
In 1910-1911, the Rineharts traveled to Vienna so that Stanley Rinehart could study a medical specialty. During the next few years, Rinehart wrote books with medical and political themes. When war broke out, she urged The Saturday Evening Post to make her a correspondent. In 1915 reporters were not allowed to visit the Allied lines, but Rinehart used her nurse’s training to earn Red Cross credentials. She examined hospitals, toured “No Man’s Land,” and interviewed both the king of Belgium and the queen of...
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