I bumped into Clara Louise Burnham, nee Root, while researching the Columbian Exposition. She wrote a novel of the Fair called Sweet Clover: A Romance of the White City. Clover is the lead character. The plot is just barely enough to hold the novel together, but, unlike the brief diaries, she describes the sights and sounds and smells and feelings of the Fair--and of the transformation of Hyde Park for the Fair.
Clara was one of the early settlers of Hyde Park and lived here most of her life. She went to the reunions that the early settlers held in the 1920s. And one of the things that struck me about Sweet Clover, is the lament of the Hyde Parker that “their” Hyde Park was changing.
Clara’s father was a composer most famous for “The Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys of Marching”, anthems of the Union Army in the Civil War. He moved the family to Hyde Park in 1858 and founded a successful music publishing business, which lost all its inventory in the 1871 fire and had to rebuild from bankruptcy.
During the rebuilding, Clara married a lawyer named Walter Burnham, who was apparently completely unremarkable—at least, to the newspapers. He died young. After that, Clara moved in with her father, spending summers with the family in their cottage on the coast of Maine. In her last years, she lived in the Cooper-Carleton (now the Del Prado). She started writing around 1880, possibly when Walter was ailing and the family was struggling.
She very successful. She published 26 novels, sold half a million copies, and had a national audience. Several of Burnham’s books were made into plays and movies. The movie version of Jewel came out in 1915 and was remade in 1923 as A Chapter of Her Life--directed by a woman, Lois Weber. Clara’s name appeared above the stars on the poster, so her fame lasted in her lifetime. She died in 1927 at the family cottage in Maine.
Burnham was a Christian Scientist and three of her novels took that as a theme: The Right Princess, Jewel, and The Leaven of Love. They were praised by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, herself, who called her a “metaphysical surgeon.” Later, Eddy asked her to change the endings so the romantic couple didn’t marry and finally said that Christian Science couldn’t endorse fiction in any form. That had to have hurt.