Maria Thompson Daviess
Maria Thompson Daviess, artist and author, was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 1872 to an upper-middle-class family. Before she was eight years old, her sister and her father died, and her mother moved the family to Nashville. Daviess became active in Nashville society and studied art at Peabody College. After graduation she traveled to Europe and continued her artistic endeavors, visiting museums and meeting famous people including Pope Leo XIII, Auguste Rodin, and French Empress Eugenie. Michelangelo's magnificent art so overwhelmed Daviess that she resigned herself to photography and miniatures. She excelled at both and displayed her miniatures at a Paris salon.
In 1904 Daviess returned to America to teach art. She developed an interest in literature and eventually put aside visual art for writing. She wrote thirteen novels and an autobiography during her fifteen-year career. Her most famous novel, Miss Selma Lue, typifies her style of the excessive optimism associated with the Pollyanna school.
As Daviess wrote her novels, she adapted them to the stage. Phyllis played in Boston and was optioned for film, though there is no evidence it was produced. Some of her work developed from her devotion to woman suffrage, a cause she helped to win in Tennessee. Daviess was a charter member of the Nashville woman suffrage organization and founded the Madison organization after moving to Sweetbriar farm in 1915. She was living at her home in Madison when she wrote her autobiography, Seven Times Seven (1923). At the time, Daviess was fighting severe articular rheumatism. She died as a result of the disease in 1924.