This Goodly Land

Sara Haardt (March 1, 1898–May 31, 1935)

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Biographical Information

Sara Haardt was born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., where she attended Margaret Booth School, a college preparatory school for girls. She attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Md., where she won the freshman short story contest, contributed to the campus literary magazine and the college newspaper, and was the editor of the college annual during her senior year. Haardt also spent the summer of 1919 campaigning (unsuccessfully) in Alabama for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. After her 1920 graduation from Goucher, Haardt taught at Margaret Booth, then returned to Goucher the following year as an English instructor. In 1922, she published her first stories in The Reviewer, a Richmond-based literary magazine. Haardt met H. L. Mencken, the Baltimore columnist, critic, and editor, in 1923 after an evening lecture he gave at Goucher. They became friends and he advised her on her writing. In late 1923, Haardt became ill with tuberculosis. She spent most of 1924 in a sanitorium near Baltimore. She continued to work on her writing while she was in the sanitorium.

After her discharge, Haardt went home to Montgomery to recover and to write. Her condition worsened late in 1925, requiring lung surgery and convalescence in a sanitorium in Saranac, New York. Haardt was not able to return to Baltimore until late in 1926, but she continued to write. In September 1927, Haardt traveled to Hollywood to write screenplays. Although she sold one of her scripts, none were produced, and she soon returned to Baltimore. Haardt’s tuberculosis returned, and she required emergency surgeries in 1928 and 1929. Early in 1930, Haardt's novel, The Making of a Lady, begun six years earlier, was accepted for publication. Later that year, she and Mencken were married. She continued writing short pieces for periodicals and began work on a second novel. In 1934, however, Haardt's tuberculosis recurred once more, and she died in 1935. A collection of her short stories, selected by Mencken, was published the following year as Southern Album.

Interests and Themes

Much of Sara Haardt's work, both fiction and nonfiction, focuses on the contrast between the nostalgic ideal of the Old South and the reality of the New South. Her short stories frequently illustrate the struggles of women and girls to resist pressure to conform to the ideal of Southern womanhood.

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Last updated on May 30, 2008.

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