|Pearl Rogers, featured in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat 1929|
Pearl Curran, A Writer Unlike
By Brad R. Cook
At the turn of the last century a writer dazzled the
nation and left her mark on St. Louis. Pearl Curran was a writer and poet, but
she is most famous for channeling Patience Worth, a medieval noble woman. It is
Patience who is said to have penned the novels. Beyond channeling her
muse, Pearl was a charter member of St. Louis Writers Guild.
Pearl Lenore Curran (1883 – 1937) began life in a simple
and unassuming way, on February 15, 1883 in Mound City, Illinois, and soon moved
with her family to Texas. Pearl attended school until she dropped out in high
school, stating she had a nervous breakdown due to the strenuous academics. She
briefly returned to St. Ignatius Catholic School, but this lack of education
would be an important factor later in her life.
Pearl and her family moved to St. Louis at the age of 14
and her interest turned to music. When the family moved to Palmer, Missouri, they
sent Pearl for voice training in Kanakee, Illinois. She showed talent as a
singer and pianist. Leading Pearl to Chicago, Illinois where she was trained by
the renowned J. C. Cooper. She first worked for the McKinley Music Company
addressing envelopes for six dollars a week, and then sold music for the
Thompson Music Company. Until the age of
twenty four, Pearl worked in Chicago through the winter, and spent her summers
in Missouri giving music lessons.
Pearl married John Howard Curran in 1907 and the two
lived a modest but comfortable life until 1913 when Pearl underwent a
remarkable experience. During the height of the spiritualist’s movement, Pearl
used a ouiji board, and channeled a medieval noble woman named Patience Worth.
Together they wrote a series of novels that Pearl claimed she transcribed while
having psychic experiences with Patience. A widely read and beloved writer, she
grew famous not only as a literary sensation, but also from the many scholars
who sought out her novels for the intimate details of medieval life that she
was able to draw upon. Details which at the time were thought to be impossible
for a high school drop out to have known.
John Curran died June 1st, 1922 and she would
marry two more times, though both would be short lived. The second of these
marriages was to Dr. H. H. Rogers, and they lived in St. Louis. During this
time she helped bring the St. Louis Writer Guild into fruition as a Charter
Member, one of the original thirty members of the organization. In 1929 she was
one of the featured authors in a St. Louis Globe-Democrat article on the prominence
of St. Louis Writers Guild. In 1930 she moved to Los Angeles, California and
lived the rest of her life with a friend, Mrs. Alexander Bailey Smith, Dotsie
to those who knew her best.
A thorough investigation was conducted by Dr. Walter
Franklin Price who published his findings in the The Case of Patience Worth, in 1927. It contained 509 pages of eye
witness reports, opinions, reviews, poetry and an autobiographical sketch of
Pearl. The book covers the years 1913 – 1927. In an article for the July 1926
Scientific American, titled The Riddle of
Patience Worth, Dr. Price requested anyone who could debunk Pearl come forward.
No one ever did.
Read more by checking out her novel, The Sorry Tale by Patience Worth
Pearl was a fascinating woman and writer, I encourage you to learn more about her amazing tale!
I originally wrote this in 2009 as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild for a series of articles about the founding members in The Scribe.