Zona Gale was born August 26, 1874, in Portage. She graduated
in 1899 from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a
Masters in Literature. Gale then spent six years as a journalist
in Milwaukee and New York.
Her visits to Portage proved a turning point, when Gale dis-
covered that the people of her hometown were a source of literary
material. She traveled frequently, returning to Portage and
living with her parents in a home at 506 W. Edgewater that
included a study of her own facing the Wisconsin River.
Gale won fame for her Friendship Village stories (1908-1919). The
popular series described American small town life while subtly
portraying Portage people and places. The success of the
series established Gale as a popular fiction writer. Along with
Sinclair Lewis, she wrote contemporary stories that celebrated
local color, customs, and ordinary people.
Gale is perhaps best known for her novel Miss Lulu Bett (1920).
Her stage adaptation of the novel the following year was
equally successful and Gale became the first woman to win the
Pulitzer Prize for drama. In 1928 Gale married local indus-
trialist William Llewelyn Breese. The couple raised a young
child, Leslyn, whom Gale had assumed custody for before the
marriage, a rare act for a single woman at that time.
Later in her life, Gale spent less time writing and devoted
herself to Progressive causes. As an active member of the
Women's Suffrage Party and Women's Peace Party, she lobbied
extensively for the 1921 Wisconsin Equal Rights Law and sup-
ported Bob and Belle La Follette's work. Gale's political activism
was her attempt to solve a problem she returned to repeatedly
in her novels: women's frustration at their lack of opportunities,
a topic she shared with friends Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins
Gilman. Gale continued writing and publishing until her death in
December 1938. Her gravestone at Silver Lake Cemetery in Portage
reads, "Life Is something more than that we believe it to be."
Wisconsin Historical Society