Gene Stratton-Porter drew inspiration from the Limberlost Swamp that was around Geneva. It was her outdoor classroom for 25 years. She wrote both fiction and non-fiction books. Even in her fiction books, she put facts about herself and others she knew in her writings.
Gene made herself the Bird Woman in both “Freckles” and “A Girl of the Limberlost.” The Limberlost cabin that Gene and Charles built in 1894-5 was the Bird Woman’s home in those books. Gene was proud of the home that she created with the help of an architect.
When Freckles met the Bird Woman, “she was staggering under a load of cameras and paraphernalia” and she also carried a gun. Gene carried a gun to the swamp and she owned four cameras plus the equipment.
Freckles lived in the swamp and did not want to call at the Bird Woman’s front door, so he used the conservatory door. Once inside he “parted the heavy curtains that separated the conservatory from the company.” Freckles was surprised that while entertaining the Bird Woman wore “silks and laces” and her neck and arms “flashed from rare jewels.” Gene did have finery and jewelry given to her by her husband, Charles. The inspiration for the character of Freckles was her stable boy Ray Boze. Gene saw Ray frequently at that same door.
In “A Girl of the Limberlost,” Elnora sees a sign in the bank window in bold black letters that stated, “Wanted: Caterpillars, cocoons, chrysalides, pupae cases, butterflies, moths, Indian relics of all kinds, highest scale of prices paid in cash.” Gene’s husband, Charles, founded the Bank of Geneva and this sign was in the bank window. Charles and Gene did purchase items. Charles would sometimes run an ad for Indian relics in the “Geneva Herald.”
Elnora decides to call on the Bird Woman. The Limberlost cabin was a short walk from the bank. There is a good description of the entry hall and dining room of the cabin in “A Girl of the Limberlost.” “Elnora followed down the hall and entered a long room with high paneled wainscoting, old English fireplace with an over mantel and closets of peculiar china filling the corners. At a bare table of oak, yellow and gold, sat a woman Elnora often had watched and followed covertly around the Limberlost. The Bird Woman was holding out a hand of welcome.”
In Gene’s book, “The Harvester,” the Dream Girl’s porch is the porch off the east side of the cabin.Gene wrote about what she knew and loved. We hope you will visit the Bird Woman of Geneva’s Limberlost Cabin.