Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Oliver, Jennie Harris

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Nationally known author and Oklahoma's third poet laureate, Jennie Harris Oliver, the eldest child of Baptist evangelist George W. and Mary Ann Walton Harris, was born March 18, 1864, in Lowell, Michigan. She supplemented her negligible elementary education by reading books from her father's library and taking nature walks with her mother. At age sixteen the girl taught school in Lowell, and she continued to teach after she and her family moved to Shiloh, Oklahoma Territory, in 1898. In 1901 she married Lloyd Oliver, a cotton planter and gin owner. They lived in Fallis, a small town located in Lincoln County situated on a rocky hill reached by a red dirt road lined with blackjack oaks.

Encouraged by author and neighbor Vingie Roe, Oliver started her writing career by borrowing a typewriter and typing on wrapping paper that she ironed in order to remove the wrinkles. Like many Oklahoma writers, Oliver's literary pieces first appeared in the local newspapers and in Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine. In 1908 Oliver sold her first short story to Munsey's Live Wire Magazine for ten dollars. During the 1920s and 1930s Good Housekeeping published many of her stories and featured her in their March 1931 issue. Other national magazines also published her stories.

Although she was not a native Oklahoman, her poetry reflects the beauty and joy she found in Oklahoma's landscape. Steeped in a religious background, she selected many of her titles and themes from the Bible. Her poetry, Red Earth: Complete Collection of Poems, has gone through five editions since 1934. Mokey, a collection of her well-received Mokey Delano series, was published in 1935. Because the stories of the mischievous boy named Mokey had wide appeal, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the book rights and planned to star Jackie Cooper in the lead role.

Oliver was popular among her peers. Oklahoma writers made an annual springtime pilgrimage to her home. There they discussed their works, and she encouraged them. She was a member of the Oklahoma Writer's League and an honorary member of Guthrie's Altrurian Club. In 1935 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame as an outstanding Sooner State author. In 1940 she was named Oklahoma's third poet laureate, an honor she held until her death. Oliver died on June 3, 1942, in an Oklahoma City hospital after a brief illness.

Linda D. Wilson


Lyle H. Boren and Dale Boren, Who is Who in Oklahoma (Guthrie, Okla.: Cooperative Publishing Co., 1935).

Charles Campbell and Betty Brown, eds., Scribes of the Red Earth (N.p.: [1976]).

Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939).

"Jennie Harris Oliver," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

O. P. Sturm, "The Oklahoma Literati," Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine (January–February 1911).

Bess Truitt, "Jennie Harris Oliver," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 22 (Summer 1944).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Oliver, Jennie Harris,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=OL003.

Published January 15, 2010

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.