Discipline: Literature

Constance Rourke

Discipline: Literature
Region: Michigan
MacDowell Fellowships: 1922, 1924, 1930

Constance Mayfield Rourke (November 14, 1885 – March 29, 1941) was an American author and educator. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Sorbonne and Vassar College. She taught at Vassar from 1910 to 1915. She died in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1941.

Rourke specialized in American popular culture. She wrote numerous pieces of criticism for magazines like The Nation and The New Republic. However, she made her name as a writer of biographies and biographical sketches of notable American figures, such as John James Audubon, P.T. Barnum, Lotta Crabtree, Davy Crockett, and Charles Sheeler, as well as books exploring different components of American culture and its history, of which American Humor: A Study of the National Character, first published in 1931, is the most famous. During the 1930s she worked on the Index of American Design as part of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. Her work was essential in the formation of the scholarly fields of American Studies and American Literature. Two of her books received the Newbery Honor award.

Portrait from the Grand Rapids Mirror Fall 1938 courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Library



Constance Rourke worked in the Sprague-Smith studio.

In January of 1976, the original Sprague-Smith Studio — built in 1915–1916 and funded by music students of Mrs. Charles Sprague-Smith of the Veltin School — was destroyed by fire. Redesigned by William Gnade, Sr., a Peterborough builder, the fieldstone structure was rebuilt the same year from the foundation up, reusing the original fieldstone. A few…

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