|Intro||American actress, journalist, author, publisher|
|A.K.A.||Rowena Granice, Rowena Granice Steele|
|Was||Writer Journalist Actor|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Journalism Literature|
|Birth||20 June 1824, Goshen, USA|
|Death||7 February 1901, Willows, USA (aged 76 years)|
Rowena Granice Steele (June 20, 1824 – February 7, 1901) was an American performer (actress, singer, elocutionist), author of poetry and novels, as well as a newspaper journalist, editor, and publisher. The first novel written by a woman in California was Steele's, The Victims of Fate.
Rowena Granniss was born in Goshen, New York, June 20, 1824. She was the second daughter of Harry and Julie Granniss. At an early age she showed talent for composition, but, being of an extremely sensitive nature, her efforts were burned as soon as written.
She married Thomas Neptune Claughley (1818–1860) in 1846. He abandoned the family in 1853. She and her two sons removed to California in 1856 in search of Thomas. After finding him and discovering him to be a "bum", she gave up his surname, and established "The Gaieties, Temple of Mirth and Song" in San Francisco around 1856. While she was the star actress at The Gaieties, Lotta Crabtree, Steele's protege, was also one of the earliest performers. The business closed for a while and re-opened in 1859, she performed at a Sacramento theater. Steele was well known for the little entertainments which she gave in early times in the California gold mines, and went as far as Nevada, where, with her little son, she gave scenes from Shakespeare and bits of comedy.
Through the force of circumstances she was compelled to offer her stories and sketches to the newspapers and magazines, and in less than two years the name of Rowena Granice had become a household word in every town in the new State of California. The newspapers were loud in their praise of the simple home stories of the new California writer. The taste for sensational stories among the early miners, in harmony with their own feverish life, was indicated by the favor accorded to the contributions of Steele, then writing as Rowena Granice, to The Golden Era, so much so as to prompt the reissue of several.
The first novel written by a woman in California, so far as known, was Steele's, The Victims of Fate. Appearing in 1857, it was published by Sterrett & Co. One thousand copies were sold in San Francisco and five thousand throughout the State. She published The family gem in 1858, a collection of her short stories.
Thomas died in 1860, and she married Robert J. Steele in the following year. In 1862, they started the Pioneer newspaper in Snelling, California. They soon removed to Merced, California where the paper was enlarged. The San Joaquin Valley Argus was published every Saturday morning in Merced. The San Joaquin Valley Argus described itself as "the only Independent, Reform paper in Merced county, advocating Temperance and general Reform, socially, morally and politically. This paper was the first newspaper ever published in Merced county, being started at Snelling, the county seat, July 3d, 1862, with Mr. R. J. Steele as proprietor and editor, and Mrs. R. G. Steele as assistant editor. It is bold and fearless in advocating right and truth. It is permanently established, has a large circulation in three counties, is well known, and consequently one of the best advertising mediums in the San Joaquin Valley." This also included the Republican Weekly of which Mr. and Mrs. Steele were its editors, while Mrs. Steele was the publisher and proprietor.
In 1874, she authored Dell Dart, or, Within the meshes. She continued to act as associate editor of the couple's newspaper until 1877, when the failing health of her husband compelled her to take entire charge, and for seven years, she was editor and proprietor. In 1884, assisted by her son, she started a daily, in connection with the weekly. In 1889, her husband died. After conducting successfully the newspaper business in the same county for twenty-eight years she sold out. As of 1892, she was editor and proprietor of the Budget, in Lodi, California.
Steele was an active writer and worker in the temperance cause. She was also an advocate of woman suffrage, both as a speaker and writer.
Steele married twice and had three sons, Henry Hale Granice (unknown–1915), George Law Granice (1853–1877), and Lee Richmond Steele (1862–1925). Henry and Lee both became journalists. She died February 7, 1901 in Willows, California, and was buried at Merced Cemetery, in Merced.