Zona Gale was born August 26, 1874, in Portage. She graduated in 1899 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Masters in Literature. Gale then spent six years as a journalist in Milwaukee and New York.
Her visits to Portge proved a turning point, when Gale discovered that the people of her hometown were a source of literary material. She traveled frequently, returning to Portage and living with her parents in a home at 506 W. Edgewater that included a study of her own facing the Wisconsin River.
Gale won fame for her Friendship Village stories (1908-1919). The popular series described American small town life while subtly portraying Portage people and places. The success of the series established Gale as a popular fiction writer. Along with Sinclair Lewis, she wrote contemporary stories that celebrated local color, customs, and ordinary people.
Gale is perhaps best known for her novel Miss Lulu Bett (1920). Her stage adaptation of the novel the following year was equally successful and Gale became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. In 1928 Gale married local industrialist William Llewelyn Breese. The couple raised a young child, Leslyn, whom Gale had assumed custody for before the marriage, a rare act for a single woman at that time.
Later in her life, Gale spent less time writing and devoted herself to Progressive causes. As an active member of the Women's Suffrage Party and Women's Peace Party, she lobbied extensively for the 1921 Wisconsin Equal Rights Law and supported Bob and Belle La Follette's work. Gale's political activism was her attempt to solve a problem she returned to repeatedly in her novels: women's frustration at their lack of opportunities, a topic she shared with friends Jane Addams and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gale continued writing and publishing until her death in December 1938. Her gravestone at Silver Lake Cemetery in Portage reads, "Life is something more than we believe it to be."
Marker is at the intersection of Cook Street (State Highway 33) and Wisconsin Street (State Highway 16) on Cook Street.