“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”
‘As You LIke it’
When Patience Worth first arrived in St. Louis on that hot summer night of July, 1913, it was with the help of Emily Grant Hutchings, a writer of some notoriety in the St. Louis Missouri area. Seated with a Ouija board between them, Emily Hutchings and Pearl Curran received the first indication that messages purported to be coming from the spirit world were being sent by a spirit who called herself “Patience Worth”. Emily and Pearl considered themselves to be best friends and they worked together at the Ouija board during the early days of Patience Worth dictation, Unfortunately, their relationship quickly cooled and Emily Hutchings went her own way for a while, purportedly contacting Patience Worth on her own. Eventually Emily would channel Mark Twain with the help of another medium, Lola V. Hays. Together they would write a short novel titled, “Jap Herron” which Emily claimed was dictated by Mark Twain from beyond the grave.
Emily Grant Hutchings attended the public schools in Hannibal Missouri, where she was born in 1869, graduating from the High School at seventeen years old and going from there to Germany to a famous school for girls in Altenburg, the Karolinum Hohere Tochtere Schule, where she remained for one year. On coming back to America she entered State University at Columbia, Missouri taking a course in letters. For two years she taught Latin and Greek, also German in the High School of Hannibal, and then came to St. Louis, taking a position as a feature writer on the “St. Louis Republic”
Emily Grant Hutchings (nee Emma Schmidt) wrote poetry and fiction and contributed to many magazines and newspapers. She was listed as one of the “Notable Women of St. Louis” in 1914 along with other prominent wealthy society women of that time (although Emily may have been prominent, she was not wealthy). She married Charles Edwin Hutchings a newspaper man and photographer in 1897. Her home was described as “a center of artistic and literary people.”
Emily and Edwin had no children and she is quoted as saying that she had “attained a great local reputation as a cook.” It was reported that “she does her own housework, marketing, etc. preferring the occupation of a housewife to the easier, but less private life of a hotel.”
As stated in Notable Women of St. Louis,
“Many of her articles require a great deal of foraging for material, but she is so persistent that the word “fail” has no place in her vocabulary. Frequently in search of material for one story she runs across another. An idea will lie dormant in her mind as long as two years, sometimes even longer—when suddenly without warning it will present itself full-fledged to be written, and then dropping whatever she may be doing, puts it down just as it comes to her, rarely making any changes. With few exceptions her work is sent to the publishers just as first written attributing this to the fact that all of her good work is the result of subconscious cerebration. She has seen among her clippings articles that she would not believe were her own had she not found her initials at the end. These stories would sometimes require a vast amount of research, but could be dismissed from the memory as quickly as acquired, and again others have impressed themselves on her mind so vividly that she could repeat them almost verbatim. Her memory is unusual, and her mind is a storehouse of information. It is, in fact remarkable—wholly isolated items of information that have been picked up in the course of years, coming up at the time most needed.
From her varied experiences Mrs. Hutchings is a very interesting woman; she possesses the rare tact of being a good listener, as well as entertaining in conversation. She has a lovable disposition and is a woman whom all other women admire.”
According to Emily she “wrote for a newspaper syndicate and did a good deal of feature writing for McClure’s, (where she wrote an article on Mark Twain) and for the St. Louis newspapers.” She contributed to “Current Literature,” “Cosmopolitan,” “Country Life,” “Current Magazine,” “The Open Court,” “Philistine,” “Atlantic Monthly,” and others. She wrote one novel that was published in the “Sunday Associated Magazine of Chicago,” entitled “Chriskios —Divine Healer.” For two years she wrote “Art and Home Decorations for Beautiful Homes.” published monthly in St. Louis. She contributed ten chapters of the “Women’s Atheneum” part of a work in ten volumes which covers every phase of woman’s activity, including themes as Art in Dress; Art in Home Decorations; The History and Study of Art; Women as Writers; The Teaching Profession for Women; The Ethics of Handiwork for Women.
She was art editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. and was published for four years as the “Mysterious Woman About Town.” At one time she wrote the “Saturday Dinner Sketches,” using the name of “Frank Harwin.” In an article in the Oakland Tribune published on September 10, 1922 Emily is quoted as saying, “It has been part of my job, all through my newspaper work, to consult with women’s clubs, to advise them on their programs and I have come to know personally most of the big women in such organizations in Missouri and in other states.”
Mrs. Hutchings was also on the publicity staff of the General Press Bureau during the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis as Chief Feature Writer “and in that capacity she sent out articles in seven languages. She wrote a story a day for twenty-four weeks which were printed all over the world. In their preparation she interviewed practically every official and head of the department connected with the fair. She was the last member of the press bureau to be dropped after the Fair had been disbanded. She was reported to be a lecturer and librarian of the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. Mrs. Hutchings has also done much work for ‘The Mirror” along the line of art criticisms, municipal improvement work, etc. It is interesting to know that she made inspections in the Industrial School, publishing the facts in that paper which four years later were proven by municipal investigation to be absolutely correct, and the city officials who scorned her actions at the time were the first to make apologies when they found her reports to have been verified..”
For two years she was on the editorial staff of the “Valley Magazine,” taking the Children’s and Domestic Science departments. She prepared about one-half of the first issue of “Myerson’s American Family Magazine,” using seven pen names, and was on the staff for one year. Emily is reported to have stated, “In my childhood I wanted to be a physician; but the first time I saw a cadaver, I fainted. That settled my career. My brother, who is a surgeon, laughed at me. So I took to literature instead.”
Emily’s mother, Margaret Schmidt did train as a physician to “make herself more useful” to her husband as he contemplated a missionary appointment in Japan but “in those days the rights of womankind were disregarded by medical colleges and she was not allowed to take a degree .” Although her husband did not become a missionary due to poor health, Margaret Schmidt’s services as a physician “were soon in great demand in the vicinity of her home and she was recognized by all as a physician of ability. Her field of labor widened and at last she had clientele not exceeded by any other practitioner in Hannibal (Missouri). She continued in professional work until declining years led to her withdrawal from active practice .”
Emily Hutchings died at home in St. Louis in 1960 and poignantly, after such an outstanding career, obituaries remembered her as little more than the widow of Edwin Hutchings. No mentions were made of her literary career or love affair with the Ouija board or spiritualism.