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West Virginia Women Writers: Julia Davis

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Julia Davis (1900-1993) Charles Town, Jefferson County

Julia Davis was born in West Virginia and spent most of her 93 years in this state. Much of her writing relates to the history of West Virginia and, in some cases, her family’s role in this history.

Since her mother died three weeks after Julia was born in 1900, and her father traveled as a diplomat, lawyer, and politician, Julia was raised by both sets of grandparents. She spent her summers with her maternal grandparents at Media Farm in Jefferson County, WV, but she was homeschooled by her paternal grandmother in Clarksburg during the winter. Before graduating from Barnard College in New York City, she spent time with her father while he was an ambassador to England in 1920. After she finished college in 1922, Julia Davis was one of the first women hired as a reporter by the Associated Press.

Her first book, Swords of the Vikings was published in 1928. She was West Virginia’s first and second Newbery Honor winner for Vanio: A Boy of New Finland in 1930,  and Mountains are Free in 1931. She won two Newbery Honor awards one for Vaino: A Boy of Finland in 1930 and the second in 1931 for Mountains are FreeStonewall, a biography of Stonewall Jackson, was published in 1931. Her play the Anvil, was a recreation of the John Brown trial for an off Broadway production in 1962 for the West Virginia Centennial celebration. She also compiled the 1945 Shenandoah volume for the landmark Rivers of America series.

Author William D. Theriault, who interviewed Julia Davis extensively, notes: “She selected the historical novel as her niche, and her creations have combined careful historical research into source materials with a narrative style.”  He adds: “I really think her best writing has been about the family and the relations within the family.”

Biographical Links


Shenandoah. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2011.

Embassy Girls. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press, 1992.

Ambassadorial Diary of John W. Davis: The Court of St. James, 1918-1921. Morgantown, W. Va. : West Virginia University Press, c1993.

The Swords of the Vikings, Stories from the Works of Saxo Grammaticus. 1928

Vaino: A Boy of New Finland. 1930

Mountains Are Free. 1931

Stonewall Jackson. 1931

Remember and Forget. 1932 

White Justice. 1933      

No Other White Men. 1937

Peter Hale. 1939      

The Sun Climbs Slow. 1942

The Shenandoah. 1994       

Cloud on the Land. 1951  

Bridle the Wind. 1953 

Eagle on the Sun. 1956      

Legacy of Love. 1961

Ride with the Eagle: The Expedition of the First Missouri in the War with Mexico, 1846. 1962

A Valley and a Song; the Story of the Shenandoah River. 1963

The Anvil; The Trial of John Brown, a two-act drama. 1963  

Mount Up; A true story based on the reminiscences of Major E. A. H. McDonald of the Confederate Cavalry. 1967

Never Say Die: The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia. 1980

NY Times Obituary



2004   --  Included on the West Virginia Literary Map, From A Place Called Solid: West Virginia and its Writers, from the West Virginia Folk Life Center at Fairmont State University

1931  --  Newbery Honor Award for Mountains are Free.

1930  -- Newbery Honor Award for Vaino: A Boy of Finland

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