Florence Glass Palmer

Florence Glass Palmer (1895-1977) is known for her two novels on southern life during Reconstruction. Palmer’s best-known work, Spring Will Come Again (1940), draws upon her parents’ lives to show how the South tried to rebuild after the social and economic devastation of the Civil War. Several critics have noted the sociological honesty and detail in Palmer’s account of the era.

Palmer was born on February 16, 1895, in Uniontown, Perry County, the seventh of nine children born to Edwin Robinson and Emma Weaver Glass. Because his own education had been interrupted during Reconstruction, her father made the education of his children a family priority. After graduating from Judson Academy in Marion, Perry County, Palmer earned both a bachelor’s degree in 1915 and a master’s degree in 1916 from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She returned home to teach Latin and mathematics at Uniontown High School. Palmer pursued graduate work at Columbia University in New York during the summers of 1919, 1920, and 1921. Around that time, Palmer met Robert Conrad Palmer, a research chemist and widower with one daughter, when she travelled to Pensacola, Florida; they were married on June 5, 1923 and settled in Pensacola. The couple had two children of their own.

Palmer began writing after her marriage. Her first novel, Life and Miss Celeste (1937), is a story based on the Charbonier sisters, whom she had discovered on a historical tour of Pensacola, one of whom became the model for her main character, Madeline Celeste Rochambeau. After the death of their reckless brother, the impoverished Rochambeau sisters struggle to pay taxes on their inherited home. Celeste, the older and stronger of the two sisters, shields her frailer sister Helene from bargain hunters who negotiate to buy the family’s belongings. The book was generally well received and was even recommended as a Catholic Book of the Month Club selection.

In her second novel, Spring Will Come Again (1940), the chief characters are patterned after the author’s parents, with similar tragedies and victories. The character Ardisia, based upon her mother, is concerned with art and literature, while the character of William, based on her father, attempts to increase cotton production by applying scientific discoveries to his farming. Palmer’s two years of research for the book produced an accurate, detailed, and colorful picture of the struggle for recovery during the Reconstruction period. Spring was a recurrent theme in Palmer’s life and writings.

Whereas Palmer remained active in civic, social, church, and cultural activities in Pensacola throughout her life, she never again published after 1940. She died of congestive heart failure on May 22, 1977, and is buried in Pensacola’s Bayview Memorial Park Cemetery.

Works by Florence Glass Palmer

Life and Miss Celeste (1937)

Spring Will Come Again (1940)

Additional Resources

Field, Louise M. Rev. of Life and Miss Celeste. New York Times Book Review 22 August 1937: 6.

Howes, Durwood, ed. American Women 1935-40: A Composite Biographical Dictionary. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981, p. 683.

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