Ann Sophia Winterbotham Stephens
A Dime Novelist Who Called Derby Home
Though often listed as being from Derby, Ann Sophia Winterbotham Stephens, was actually a native of Humphreysville which was once a part of Derby and is now part of the town of Seymour. She was the daughter of John Winterbotham, a manufacturer of woolen goods who was a partner of David Humphreys.
Ann certainly made a name for herself as a prolific writer and editor. In 1831, she married Edward Stephens a newsman from Massachusetts and they moved to Portland, Maine where she became an editor for his magazine - Portland Magazine. She also wrote for the magazine including her first published complete story - "The Tradesman's Daughter."
Because of Edward's poor health, they moved to New York City, and she became editor of the Ladies' Companion, a position she held for four years. A few year's later, she became Associate Editor of Graham's Magazine, which had another associate editor by the name of Edgar Allan Poe!
In 1844, she became Associate Editor of Peterson's Ladies' National Magazine. In addition to being its editor, every year she would contribute another story in serial format commencing in January and ending in December. From 1850 to 1852 she traveled in Europe, where she had the opportunity to meet with writers such as Charles Dickens and other notables such as the pope and members of the Russian imperial family.
She resided in New York City, but spent many winters in Washington D.C. where it is said that she was well connected with all of the presidents and other major political figures of the time.
Some say that the most famous of her writings is "The Old Homestead," published in New York in 1855 and broadly performed over the next fifty years. "Malaeska," the first of the Beadle Dime Novels, was issued in June, 1860, but was originally one of her serials for Peterson's. It is generally considered to be the first Dime Novel every published.
Her writing was too prolific to list here, but suffice it to say that this female author really left her mark on the literary world. Her old homestead in Seymour can still be seen as part of the Valley Heritage Driving tour.
Mrs. Stephens died in Newport, R. I. on August 20, 1886.