American author F Scott Fitzgerald (1896 - 1940) dances with his wife Zelda Fitzgerald (nee Sayre) (1900 - 1948) and daughter Frances (aka 'Scottie') in front of the Christmas tree in Paris. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Happy Women’s History Month! This is the 16th blog of a series of blogs called “Women’s History Month Heroes You Should Know”. This series will be a collection of my research into little-known American women who have made history in one way or another (or multiple ways!).

The focus of today’s blog is Zelda Fitzgerald, American writer and dancer who was also married to The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This is her story.

Family Values Propriety

According to britannica.com, Zelda Fitzgerald was born in 1900 in Montgomery, Alabama. With her father being a Supreme Court Justice, Zelda’s household and community highly valued propriety. Her parents believed her to be rebellious in the sense that she oftentimes drank, smoked, and flirted heavily as a teenager.

Meeting F. Scott Fitzgerald

It wasn’t until right after she had graduated high school in 1918 that she met an officer stationed nearby named F. Scott Fitzgerald. They began courting, but not exclusively at first since Zelda had doubts of his ability to provide for her financially. But, after he wrote and published his first book in 1920 called This Side of Paradise, Zelda felt more confident and agreed to marry him, the ceremony happening nearly a month later.

Fast Celebs

A year later, the couple had their only child, Frances Fitzgerald nicknamed Scottie. This Side of Paradise grew wild popularity, making the couple fast celebrities. Zelda became the face of the 1920s liberated woman. F. Scott became associated with ushering in the Jazz Age of the 1920s. After they moved to France, their lifestyle together was very flamboyant and extravagant, similar to that of Jay Gatsby in F. Scott’s third novel from 1925 The Great Gatsby.

Mental Breakdowns

During this time, their marriage became rougher and rougher for the both of them. F. Scott worked on his fourth book while Zelda explored her creative side with dance, art, music, and sports. Despite this, Zelda became so stressed that she experienced her first mental breakdown in 1930. A year after moving back to the United States in 1931, she experienced a second breakdown which led to her staying in a clinic for some time. There, she wrote her only novel Save Me the Waltz (1932). The book did not sell well and F. Scott resented her for writing it.

Tragic End To a Tumultuous Marriage

After that, Zelda delved into playwriting for some time, meanwhile, F. Scott published his fourth book called Tender Is The Night after ten years of working on it. By this time, the Fitzgeralds had built up extensive debt. In 1940, F. Scott had moved to Hollywood to work in scriptwriting and died of a heart attack at age 44. At this time, Zelda had been living in a hospital in Asheville and working on a second novel called Caesar’s Things. She ended up dying in a tragic fire there in 1948. Read more about Zelda Fitzgerald here.

Source: Britannica.com

Read another post from the blog series “Women’s History Month Heroes You Should Know” here.