Home Over There: Marguerite Marsh and the YMCA in the Great War

Marguerite Marsh-Emily Webster

Marguerite Marsh (Emily Webster in Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace), ca. 1913 (photo from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley).

Firing on the First World War’s Western Front ended on Nov. 11, 1918 at the eleventh hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. As the world commemorates the centennial, there are hundreds of stories of men and women who served.

This is the story of Marguerite Marsh, a Mankato woman who answered the call when the United States branch of the YMCA took a bold step and opened its service to females for the first time in July 1917.  She was born in Mankato on Independence Day in 1890. Her mother died when she was only eleven years old and her father left her in the care of her elderly grandparents, John Q. and Sarah (Hanna) Marsh (early pioneer settlers). Sarah Marsh died two years later leaving Marguerite alone to care for her aging grandfather. Marsh graduated from Mankato High School in 1909, was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church working with the youth. After the death of her grandfather in 1915, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and studied home economics.

When war was declared in 1917, the YMCA immediately volunteered its support at home and abroad. They organized canteens at the front lines in France, giving soldiers a place where they could get away from the harsh realities of the war. These canteens were huts or tents set up to provide coffee, writing materials, books, gramophone and records or moving picture shows several times a week for the soldiers. Nearly 1500 entertainers met with the troops in their off hours.

record-image_3Q9M-CSMB-P9W2-3 copy

Marguerite Marsh YMCA WWI service card

Some Americans thought that women would not hold up to the physical and mental strain of war work. However, many women stepped up to the challenge, including Marguerite Marsh. She enlisted with the 82nd Division in November 1917 and served with 13,00 YMCA workers in France. Marguerite was assigned to a YMCA café at Tours, France, and was later given the rank of Secretary in charge of a canteen at Gondrecourt, with the First Army school.

Back in Mankato, the First Presbyterian Church published a newsletter, Our Church Life. In addition to church news, it contained letters and news about servicemen and women from the church. This newsletter was gratefully anticipated by the soldiers and kept those at home informed of their fellow church members. Below are excerpts from news and letters written by Marguerite and published in Our Church Life.

A telegram Marsh sent to the Rev. Paden on Dec. 11, 1917, describes her hopes to depart for France on Dec. 19. Soon after arriving she first worked canteen service in the largest café at Tours, outside of Paris, serving three meals a day in addition to other duties. “Before leaving Paris, some of the group visited the American Hospital there. We could hardly get away. Though there was no one there from our part of the United States, we were welcomed like long lost friends. The boys were all eager to see anyone from America.”

April 16, 1918, she sent a letter from “Somewhere in France.” The weather cold and damp and she was rooming with a friend at the YWCA Hostess House. Marsh wrote that she was eager for “real canteen work” at one of the barracks.

May 17, 1918, she wrote about being “muchly excited” over the granting of their repeated request to be transferred nearer the front and their preparations for the approaching transfer—to what point she did not know.

Our Church Life published a report from her aunt, Mrs. John R. Beatty, about her receiving a letter from Marsh’s superior officer regarding her work: “She is doing really good work here and is a credit to her country and to her family.”

JN2017-00355

Marguerite most likely dresses similar to the woman in this poster designed by Neysa Moran McMein in 1918, “One of the Thousand Y.M.C.A. Girls in France.”

Marsh wrote in July 1918 about the few weeks she had spent starting a canteen 28 miles from the front: “Starting a canteen means bushels of work…We furnish the boys stationery, envelopes, pens and ink—free. The writing tables are in use most of the day. A bunch of boys who came in recently from the South and can not read and write so we are arranging classes for them. Last Sunday afternoon I watched an air battle at some distance. We never know whether it is a practice fight or a real one.” Several weeks later she writes about the abandonment of the canteen and her transfer to a large canteen at the divisional headquarters.

Writing on August 23, 1918: “Back again and working harder than ever in a hut which serves thousands of men. I never saw so many hot, dusty boys in my life. They come in on trucks so white with dust that they bear no resemblance to human beings…There is a beautiful full moon and we are congratulating ourselves on our escape from the air raids. We have had bombs to the right of us and bombs to the left of us but so far have remained untouched.

I am writing to the accompaniment of a beautiful band which is playing on the shady side of the village street. There is something incongruous about that band. It has played each afternoon for a week. It gives me a queer feeling. Even as I write, the sound is drowned by the rumble of army trucks. Music gives war a stagy effect which it is far from having. It is quite too real.”

In her Oct. 21, 1918, letter she made an admission: “I am ashamed to tell you how comfortable I am. I have a room all to myself, with two other American women in the same house—‘Y’ workers also. The canteen work is very hard but with such comfortable living conditions, I don’t mind. I work every night until ten or half past. The cook from one of the Company messes made doughnuts for us yesterday afternoon and last night we were just swamped.”

“We had Billy Sunday’s trombonist at our hut Sunday evening. He gave such a straightforward talk which did us all good. We lead such double lives over here. Underneath, our hearts ache for the boys suffering in the hospitals or standing in the cold mud of the trenches; at the same time we must joke, play around with, and try to help keep up the spirits of the boys in the back areas who are waiting their turn.”

“The other day, on one of the few sunshiny afternoons which we have had, Miss Tyler and I went up on the hill back of the village. In the distance and outlined against the sky, was an apparently never-ending line of French artillery, appearing over the edge of the hill, passing across a long straight stretch of road where according to French custom, trees were set a regular intervals. I was fascinated with the picture which they presented, but Miss Tyler said that she had seen so much of the horrible side of war that she could see nothing picturesque about it. It seems as though it must be over by spring.”

Sierra copy 2

U.S. World War I transport ship, USS Sierra

Three weeks later, November 11, 1918, armistice was signed. Demobilization took time and Marguerite returned to the states with the 82nd Division. They departed Bordeaux, France aboard the troop transport ship USS Sierra on May 9th and arrived in New York on May 21, 1919.

During WWI, the YMCA had assumed military responsibilities on a scale that had never been attempted by a non-profit, community-based organization in the history of our nation and would never be matched again.

Marguerite enrolled in a hospital training course at the Presbyterian Hospital in connection with Columbia University in New York. She married Myron Wilcox in New York in May 1923. They moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where Marguerite gave birth to a son, John Marsh Wilcox, on January 31, 1925. Just two weeks later, Marguerite died in Iowa City, at the age of 35. She is buried near her grandparents in Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato.

From her obituary in the Mankato Free Press: “There are lives made stronger by adversity. For Marguerite Marsh, one after another the home ties of her girlhood were broken by death. Through it all, she preserved her brave faith, the sweet poise of character that carried her through to a fine womanhood in a happy home of her own.”

Advertisements

Armistice Day

Firing on the First World War’s Western Front ended on Nov. 11, 1918 at “the eleventh hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.” Thousands of Americans served in this war both at home and abroad and many lives were lost. As the centennial of Armistice Day is commemorated, I can’t help but remember the friends and family of Maud Hart Lovelace who were touched by this war.

Delos Lovelace (Joe Willard) was in First Officers Training Camp and stationed at Fort Snelling when he met Maud Hart (Betsy Ray) in 1917. Just six months later, on November 29, 1917, the couple was married while Delos was on a weekend pass from Camp Dodge, Iowa. Delos was sent to France as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 339th machine gun battalion. When the war ended, the Army sent him to Trinity College in Cambridge for four months of study while he waited for space on a troopship to come home.

Charles Harris WW1

Charles Harris (Jack Dunhill), husband of Marjorie Gerlach (Tib Muller) enlisted in the U.S. Army at the beginning of the war and served as a sergeant in Company C of the 212th Engineers.

Marguerite Marsh (Emily Webster) enlisted with the YMCA for canteen work in the fall of 1917. She went overseas with the 82nd Division to operate a YMCA Cafe at Tours, France, and later at Gondrecourt. She wrote home about the work she was doing in France.  “Starting a canteen means bushels of work,” she wrote. “We calcimated the ceiling a blue grey, stained the rafters brown, put burlap on the walls and curtains on the windows. We got a new Delco moving picture machine — with the same engine we have electric lights in the hut. We use a tar paper over the windows at night to prevent the light from being seen outside. We have shades over the lights. Everyone says it’s very pretty. There are millions of flowers on the hillside, so we can have fresh ones every day. We furnish the boys stationery, envelopes, pen and ink — free. The writing tables are in use most of the day. A bunch of boys who came in recently are from the South and cannot read and write, so we are arranging classes for them. The teachers are boys from their own companies who have had at least a high school education.”

Myron Wilcox (Jed Wakeman) served in Chaumont, Dordogne, and Aquitaine, France. He  was a 1st Lieutenant Infantry on General Pershing’s staff in Chaumont, France. It’s unknown if he and Marguerite knew each other at that time they were serving in France. Myron and Marguerite were married in 1923.

William Everett WW1

William Everett (Sam Hutchinson), husband of Marion Willard (Carney Sibley), was ordered to active duty as a first lieutenant in the Aviation Section in August 1917. After training, he was sent to France with an aero squadron in January 1918. He and Marion were married a month after he returned home in August 1919.

Tom Fox cemetery stone

Tom Fox (Tom Slade) attended West Point in 1915. His classmates were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. Tom had a lifelong career in the military. He died in 1955 and is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.

James Baker Jr. (E. Lloyd Harrington) was overseas serving in the Norton-Hordjes ambulance corps and he later became a lieutenant in the French military.

The war interrupted and changed the course of the lives of these young men and women as it did for thousands of others. 100 years later…we remember…and continue to pray for peace. Never forget.

Remembering Marguerite Marsh (Emily Webster) on Decoration Day

 

IMG_0884Memorial Day always brings to mind Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. I love the story of the patriotic Decoration Day celebration (as it was known then) and the tradition of decorating the graves of soldiers and family. Over the years this tradition seems to have been lost to some. Even in 1912, the year this book was set, some of Emily’s friends do not understand the true meaning of the holiday. Don calls it “bunk” and asks Emily, “how many people are thinking about anything except the impression they are making, or the picnic they are heading for, or how their feet hurt?” Emily realizes the day means more to her than most people and explains, “It’s —part of growing up in America.” Don tells her she’s just a sentimentalist.

As Emily works to tidy up the family gravesites, she remembers the lives of those she loved and how her life might be different had they lived longer. Emily’s family mirrors that of her counterpart, Marguerite Marsh, who lost her mother at a young age and then her grandmother. She was left with only her grandfather, who she cared for until his death.

Marguerite had a deep sense of service to others and devotion for her country. She enlisted in the YMCA in November 1917 and served 16 months in France with the 82nd Division. She was assigned to a YMCA café at Tours, France and later was in charge of a canteen at Gondrecourt, with the First Army school.

When I visited Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato this Memorial Day weekend, I stopped by Marguerite’s grave, left a flower and placed an American flag. The family plot is located in the older part of the cemetery and is heavily shaded by a large tree where the grass no longer grows. Remember Marguerite…

YMCA Poster Gt. War Centenary 1914 - 1918 Fb Page

 

 

 

 

Happy 126th Birthday Maud Hart Lovelace!

MHL birthday 4.24.18

In honor of Maud Hart Lovelace’s 126th birthday, I’m offering a birthday sale! All Maud Hart Lovelace related books are on sale now through May 31, 2018. Click the title to take you to the description page.

The Black Angels by Maud Hart Lovelace

One Stayed at Welcome by Maud and Delos Lovelace

Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley by Julie Schrader

Discover Deep Valley by Julie Schrader

Collected Stories of Maud Hart Lovelace & Delos Lovelace, Vol. 1

Collected Stories of Maud Hart Lovelace & Delos Lovelace, Vol. 2

My Betsy-Tacy Miracle by Kathleen Baxter

Orange Blossoms Everywhere: The Story of Maud and Delos Lovelace in California, 1953-1980 is not on sale due to limited remaining quantities.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Your interest in Maud Hart Lovelace and her work help to promote her literary legacy. Minnesota Heritage Publishing is a small publishing company and all our titles are limited editions. Please help by sharing this with a friend, give a book as a gift or donate to your local library. Together we can keep Maud’s legacy alive!
Sign up for occasional e-news from Minnesota Heritage Publishing and stay informed about future sales and new releases. Just send your name and email address to be added to our mailing list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside

Trimming the Tree with Deep Valley Ornaments

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

IMG_0057

Since 2008, our Christmas tree has been adorned with a Maud Hart Lovelace/Betsy’s House ornament. While working as the Executive Director for the Betsy-Tacy Society, I had come across a collectible ornament for author Louisa May Alcott and the Orchard House. With a little research, I located the manufacturer, ChemArt from Providence, Rhode Island. This began the process of creating the Lovelace/Betsy’s House ornament that is sold exclusively by the BTS as a fundraiser.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the story on CBS News (Dec. 17, 2017), Trimming the tree with Presidential history and ChemArt was mentioned. Turns out that ChemArt makes the annual White House Christmas ornament for the White House Historical Association! ChemArt owner Richard Beaupre is interviewed and it ‘s interesting to learn more about the company and see the manufacturing process. Most of the ornaments are made piece by piece, one by one. The Deep Valley ornaments are made of brass and finished in 24 carat gold. It’s hard to see from the photograph, but the porch on each house is 3-dimensional.

The Frances “Bick” Kenney/Tacy’s House ornament was created in 2015 and hangs with the Lovelace ornament on our tree. “Hold Christmas in your hand” and decorate your tree with these Deep Valley collectible ornaments. They’re available online from the Betsy-Tacy Society Gift Shop.  Your purchase supports the preservation of these historic literary landmark houses. What could be better!

IMG_0061

Christmas Cards

Christmas-shoppers

This postcard is reminiscent of the Brass Bowl story in “Heaven to Betsy”. There’s even a brass bowl in the upper right corner of the card. It could very well be Mrs. Ray window shopping with Betsy.

With all the excitement and the rush of the holiday season, it’s easy to put off writing and mailing Christmas cards. With email and Facebook today, holiday cards might seem as outdated as the horse and buggy. But I’m holding on to the tradition of sending actual cards by mail. I’ve tried the easier and more convenient way a few times, but it doesn’t hold the same feeling. Apparently, I’m not the only one because, according to the Internet, Americans still purchase approximately 1.6 billion Christmas cards a year.

I love vintage Christmas cards and postcards and occasionally will come across reproductions in the store. The beautiful vintage artwork makes me think of Betsy, Tacy and Christmas in Deep Valley. Images that create the nostalgic feeling of a time long ago when Maud Hart Lovelace and her friends grew up in Mankato (Deep Valley), with snowy scenes of children ice skating and sledding, Christmas trees and holly, Santa Claus and church bells.

Imagine the excitement this time of year when the postman delivered the holiday greetings from family and friends at the Hart (Ray) and Kenney (Kelly) homes. Maud (Betsy) most likely had postcards similar to these in her postcard album.

A little history…For a few years in the early 20th century, postcards were a massive phenomenon. Postcards were the cheapest and easiest means of communication at one time. The cost of a stamp was only a penny. Billions of postcards were sent through the mail, and billions more were bought and put into albums and boxes. Christmas postcards were the most popular. Nearly every home in the early 1900s had a postcard album holding greetings from near and far.penny_post_by_yesterdays_paper-db6411q

Here are two references Maud made to postcards in the Betsy-Tacy books:

“As soon as I get back to Cox,” Jerry told her when he said good-by, “I’m going send you a present. What would you like? A postcard album?” A postcard album! It was just what she had been wanting. … 

She [Betsy] hobbled downstairs late and spent most of the day on the back-parlor sofa. She liked to watch the red flames flickering behind the isinglass windows of the stove. After the postcard album came (for Jerry sent it! It had leather covers and the seal of Cox School on it.) she enjoyed putting in her collection of postcards. Postcards from her grandmother in California and from various uncles and aunts, from her father that time he went to St. Paul and from Tib when she went to visit in Milwaukee.    Quote from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

When Betsy went out into the Great World, “she sent flocks of post cards telling her friends that it was simply fascinating.”    Quote from Betsy and the Great World

image037-004

100 Years Ago Today…

Maud & Delos wedding 1917.jpgMaud Palmer Hart Wedded to Lieut. Delos W. Lovelace

The marriage of Miss Maud Palmer Hart, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Hart, 905 West Twenty-fifth street, and Lieut. Delos Wheeler Lovelace was solemnized yesterday afternoon at 5 o’clock at the home of the bride’s parents. The Rev. Lathan A. Crandall, pastor of Trinity Baptist church, read the service in the presence of the immediate family. The vows were spoken before an alter of yellow chrysanthemums and palms arranged at one end of the living room. Killarney roses were used in the dining room.

Mrs. Eugene S. Bibb was her sister’s matron of honor. Her gown was of grey panne velvet trimmed with rose beading and she wore a corsage bouquet of violets and roses. Captain Bibb attended Lieutenant Lovelace as best man.

The bride wore a gown of white taffeta and tulle. The skirt was made of bouffant effect and the bodice was cut décolleté and finished with long tulle sleeves. The tulle veil was held in place with a wreath of orange blossoms. Her bouquet was a shower of pale pink roses and forget-me-nots.

Lieutenant Lovelace is on leave until Monday when he will return to Camp Dodge, where he and his bride will be at home after December 15.

Out of town guests at the wedding include Miss Marjorie Gerlach of Mankato, Miss Florence Macbeth of New York and Mr. Edwin Hart, a cousin of the bride, who is at the Great Lakes naval training station.

Lieutenant and Mrs. Lovelace both attended the University of Minnesota and Mis. Lovelace is a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

—From the Minneapolis Morning Tribune: Friday, November 30, 1917

November Days in Deep Valley

btbh-001

From Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace, illustrated by Lois Lenski.

Early in November Betsy made her first expedition to the library. It was a windy day. Gray clouds like battleships moved across a purplish sea of sky.

The big elm in Lincoln Park, bare and austere, pointed the way downtown. She entered Broad Street, passing big houses cloaked in withered vines against November cold.

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown

The weather was growing wintery. Early in November Betsy looked out her window one morning to find a thin layer of white over the world.

Heaven to Betsy

It was a sunless afternoon. The look of the world spelled the word November.

Betsy In Spite of Herself

It was an overcast day in November. The trees had been striped of their last withered leaves. 

Betsy Was a Junior

 

My Betsy-Tacy Miracle: A Literary Pilgrimage to Deep Valley

COVER_Page_01Fans of Maud Hart Lovelace and the Betsy-Tacy books will adore this delightful book written by Kathleen Baxter and published by Minnesota Heritage Publishing.

Kathleen explained, “52 years ago, I met a character from a book.  It was a fictitious book, but the characters in it were based on the friends and family of Mankato native Maud Hart Lovelace, who wrote the popular Betsy-Tacy books. The book character I met was Carney, one of Betsy’s best friends, such a good friend that Mrs. Lovelace wrote an entire book based on the high school and college years of her dear friend Marion Willard—Carney’s House Party.  As if meeting her was not enough, I met another important character and his wife—Jabez Lloyd aka Cab Edwards in the books, and his wife Grace, aka Jean.“

“I was not alone when I made a pilgrimage to Mankato (fictional Deep Valley).  I was with college friends who loved the books as much as I do, and it was a truly glorious moment in our lives.  People have been asking me to write this story for many years.  It’s a fun book, loaded with photographs, and reproductions of the letters that Mrs. Lovelace sent to me and letters that the people we met sent to her about our visit, and, astonishingly, reproductions of the letters I sent to her—which she kept all of her life and which her daughter mailed to me a few years after her death.  I’m from Walnut Grove originally, and, yes, of course I love Laura Ingalls Wilder, but not as much as I love Maud Hart Lovelace!”

About the Author: Kathleen Baxter was the head of children’s services at the Anoka County Library for 32 years, then worked for a Mankato publishing company, and has given talks in 46 states as well as 7 in Canada and 2 in Cancun.  She wrote a column in the School Library Journal, the library magazine with the highest circulation in the world, for over 17 years.  She also wrote seven books about children’s books published by Libraries Unlimited/Teacher Ideas Press.

My Betsy-Tacy Miracle: A Literary Pilgrimage to Deep Valley, released October 7, 2017 is available to order online.

What readers are saying about “My Betsy-Tacy Miracle

Received the book yesterday and could not put it down until I had finished the whole thing.         JoAnn K., Montana

I loved reading your story and I adored getting to see the original letters. What a gift to BT fans!           Jennifer D.K., Massachusetts

It was with great joy on a rainy evening I read Kathy Baxter’s wonderful new book, My Betsy-Tacy Miracle.   I had planned to read the first 2 chapters but devoured it.  Now I will go back and reread it at a slower pace.  What a treasure!     Ellen G., Wisconsin

What a wonderful adventure you and your friends had! And all those marvelous photos, and the letters – thank you, so very much, for sharing it all with us. You are a great writer and a gifted storyteller, and I will treasure your book.     Jan G., Oregon

My lovely signed copy of Kathy’s book arrived yesterday afternoon, and I devoured it immediately. Kathy’s writing, along with the letters and pictures, really made the “pilgrimage” come to life!    Peggy O., California

I really enjoyed reading about your adventures, as well as the pictures and the letters. How wonderful that you wrote to Maud and Marion! Not only did they answer you, but their other correspondence shows how much they enjoyed hearing from you.                          Krista B., California

Such a wonderful account of a delightful story! I especially loved how much it inspires to just follow one’s own interests and pursue them however obscure they may appear to other people.      Sonja W., Germany

Authors Inspired by Maud Hart Lovelace Share Their Praise

 

MHL-1 Maud Hart LovelaceBECHS

Maud Hart Lovelace (1892-1980) (Photo courtesy of the Blue Earth County Historical Society)

The dictionary definition of the word “inspire” is “fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Many have been inspired by the writings of Maud Hart Lovelace and this is a collection of quotes from some people you may know or recognize.

“Age 10 was pivotal:  I moved to a new school where the friendly librarian recommended armfuls of books each week.  She turned me onto the Betsy-Tacy series. Then my 4th grade teacher taught creative writing; I loved writing stories.  One of mine attracted attention—a school achievement award, reading it to the PTA, and the librarian sent it to a children’s magazine… my first youthful rejection letter.  I decided to be a writer, just like Betsy. I admired her belief in herself as a writer, and her persistence.  Even now, I’m still so inspired by Betsy, and by Maud, who followed her dreams and wrote books that have had a great influence on so many of us.”  ~ Theresa Jarosz Alberti, author

 “Heavens to Betsy! It was pure bliss to slip away and into the world of these turn-of-the-century Minnesota girls, their families, their friends, their loves. It had been many, many years since I’d spent time with the enchanting Betsy Ray, but after reacquainting myself with these classics, I now realize that one of the reasons I believed I could someday become a writer was because of Betsy’s own infallible confidence that she would be a writer. Hurrah to Harper Perennial for giving us the gift of three gorgeously packaged omnibus re-issues of the Betsy-Tacy-Tib high school books. Don’t worry if you don’t have a young person to buy these delicious books for—be selfish and give ‘em to yourself.”     ~ Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author

 “Some characters become your friends for life. That’s how it was for me with Betsy-Tacy.”  ~ Judy Blume, best selling author

“I was invited to a Breakfast at the Los Angeles Public Library. Writers and illustrators of children’s books were asked to the annual Breakfast to meet librarians. I was awed by the line-up of guests. Lucile and Hilling C. Holling, Conrad and Mary Buff, Eleanor Estes, Leo Politi, Maud Hart Lovelace! Lois Lenski had written to me about Mrs. Lovelace…Elizabeth Riley is her editor, too, and I illustrated the first of the Betsy-Tacy series. They were based on Maud’s childhood in Minnesota, and I worked from family photographs she sent me. While I was doing the pictures, we became good friends. Elizabeth Riley had told me about the Betsy-Tacy books, too. Her three Siamese cats were named Betsy, Tacy, and Tib. Maud Hart Lovelace was one of Crowell’s most successful authors. And here was the great lady in person, a handsome woman with an air of great dignity. Standing in her presence, I couldn’t think of anything to say.”  ~ Clyde Robert Bulla (1914-2007), award-winning author

“Slipping into a Betsy book is like slipping into a favorite pair of well-worn slippers. It’s always a pleasure to live in Betsy’s world for a little while, to experience her simple joys as well as her (thankfully short-lived) sorrows.”  ~ Meg Cabot, best selling author

“The Betsy-Tacy books were among my favorites when I was growing up.”  ~ Nora Ephron (1941-2012), Academy-Award nominated director

“One of the things I find so inspiring about the Betsy-Tacy books is how they can be at once comforting and familiar, focused on small, everyday things, and yet can still so thrillingly capture the grand wonder of life, and ask big, challenging questions. I’m grateful for how they inspire me to see both the small treasures and the big picture, in my own life, and in my own writing.”  ~ Deva Fagan, writer of fantasy and science fiction for teens and tweens

“How could I possibly have missed the Betsy-Tacy books growing up?  Finding them was like coming home.  Maud Hart Lovelace’s skill in creating a world we never want to leave makes the reader in me deliriously happy, while the writer in me simply shakes her head in awe.  Long live Deep Valley!”  ~ Heather Vogel Frederick, author Mother-Daughter Book Club series

“I read Maud Hart Lovelace’s “Betsy-Tacy” series as I was growing in Chicago and was drawn into turn-of-the-century Mankato by the girls’ relationships, problems and daily lives. (Betsy’s obsession with writing was part of the reason I was smitten.) After moving to Mankato in 1978, I realized I lived in Maud’s “Deep Valley,” and being a history buff (and wanna-be time traveler), I began to research the characters and places in the books. The research resulted in my earning six grad credits at MSU-M and the publication of “Betsy-Tacy in Deep Valley: People and Places,” a 58-page soft cover book that has been through several updated printings since 1985. Maud’s books, however, need no updates. They continue to be timeless in their portrayal of three best friends growing up from age five to adulthood.” ~ Carlienne Frisch, author Betsy-Tacy in Deep Valley: People & Places

“To paraphrase Maud, it is difficult now to think of a time when Betsy was not my ‘imaginary’ friend.  Whether I loved her because I was already a writer in my heart, or whether I became one because Maud showed me how a girl might grow up into that, I don’t know.  But knowing Betsy as I did, it made perfect sense that I wanted to write, too.”  ~  Blythe Gifford, historical romance novelist

“I read all the Betsy-Tacy stories in order as I grew up, but it was “Heaven to Betsy” that gave me a girl writer to imagine myself being.  I still reread it every few years—it never disappoints.”  ~ Patricia Hampl, award-winning author

“I came across the Betsy-Tacy books when I was about 14, remembered to look for the author whose name sounded like a valentine.  My cousin Myrna and I were devout fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and became devoted to the citizens of Deep Valley.  So much so that some years later, I sought out Mrs. Lovelace’s phone number at my local library. I was so fan-flummoxed when she actually ANSWERED the PHONE, that I blurted out, “You’re BETSY!”   I can’t know if she actually rolled her eyes heavenward [as I do even now, remembering what a cluck I was], but MHL was gracious. She said, “Well, I’ve written books about Betsy.”  We had a brief conversation in which, I’m ashamed to say, feeling that I might have caused her sorrow, Mrs. Lovelace informed me, in answer to my question, that many of her friends had since passed away. Sigh…Some years later, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Missouri author, Clyde Robert Bulla, who had lived in California & had worked with Elizabeth Riley. Thrilled I was when he told me that he’d MET Mr. & Mrs. Lovelace at a party. He recalled that her lipstick looked rather ‘purple.’  [!]  And that Delos would fluster ladies by complimenting them on their hair then ask, ‘Is that a wig?’   My only other Maud-related memory is the excitement I experienced in 1992, when I first visited Mankato and saw where she’d lived and I walked where she had walked. Bless her forever for the happiness I derived from her books. Mrs. Wilder & Mrs. Lovelace WERE my happy childhood.”  ~ Cheryl Harness, author/illustrator

“There is no series of books that has meant more to me than Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. If there was one fictional world that I could live in, it would be Betsy’s Deep Valley with all of The Crowd. And thanks to Maud’s timeless stories, it’s a world I can visit over and over again.”  ~ Jennifer Hart, SVP, Associate Publisher, William Morrow

“Family loyalty and the devotion of friends to one another, which for me are the defining characteristics of the Betsy-Tacy stories”  ~ Esther Hautzig, award-winning author, Director of Children’s Book Promotion for Thomas Y. Crowell Co., and publicist for Betsy’s Wedding in 1955.

 “When I was growing up in the Bronx, I had lots of friends. But the girls I most enjoyed spending time with were Betsy, Tacy and Tib. I didn’t need my mother’s permission to invite them over to my house. All I had to do was open one of the books in the series by Maud Hart Lovelace and there they were – three girls full of good ideas, adventures and fun. In time, I introduced my daughter to these girls. Even though I’ve lost touch with many of my childhood friends, Betsy, Tacy and Tib remain just as I remember them and waiting for my granddaughters to join them in games now too.”  ~ Johanna Hurwitz, award-winning author

“Maud’s eventual success as a writer stemmed not only from her talent, but largely from her own determination and perseverance, as well as the fact that she possessed the ability to create books that truly illustrate the joy of life, love, family, and friendship. Maud’s writing may have provided her own life with purpose, promise, beauty, and mystery, but her writing has also proved inspiring to vast number of devoted Betsy-Tacy fans—including me.”  ~ Samantha Johnson, award-winning writer

“I grew up 30 miles north of Mankato, and trips to town were filled with mystery and magic, because I was walking the same streets that Betsy and Tacy once walked. The Betsy-Tacy books spoke of the quiet, invaluable riches right in my own backyard, and, more than any other books, fed my dream of becoming a writer one day.”  ~ Jill Kalz, Minnesota Book Awards Readers’ Choice winner

“Maud Hart Lovelace was truly an inspiration for me.  I didn’t realize how much until recently, when a friend asked me what inspired me to become a writer.  Without hesitation I answered, “It was Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books.”  They were being written as I was growing up. I always received a book from my mother on the occasion of my birthday and Christmas.  If there was a new Betsy-Tacy book available, that is what I received.  I really identified with Betsy, who also loved to write (and did become a writer in real life, as we know.) To add to my reverent feelings about Maud, it turned out that she was the aunt of a good friend of mine, Romie (Rosemond) Lundquist. Romie’s mother and Maud Hart Lovelace’s mother were sisters. Several of Romie’s friends and I got to meet Maud Hart Lovelace at Romie’s house one blissful day. It was inspiring to meet a successful author and I never forgot that day.”  ~ Anne Kerr, author Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels

“I grew up wanting to be a writer, and believing it could be done, in part, because of Betsy.  I identified strongly with her desire to tell stories, and also with her desire to publish those stories; she was someone who collected interesting characters and details when she traveled, kept lists and journals, and resolutely sent her stories out again and again, persevering even when her efforts were met with discouraging strings of rejections.  When Betsy went to high school, she went as a writer, even In Spite of Herself, and when Betsy set out to see the Great World, she went as a writer.  I enjoyed her friendships and her family and her journeys and her adventures, but they all meant much more to me because she was experiencing her life and her world with a writer’s eye for details and stories.  The first moment in the Betsy-Tacy stories which reliably makes me tear up is the scene at the end of Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, when Betsy discovers that her poem has been printed in the newspaper. “The author’s name was Betsy Warrington Ray.”  ~ Perri Klass, MD & author

“Maud Hart Lovelace and her “Betsy-Tacy” series influenced me very much when I was a girl; I identified with Betsy, who wanted to be a writer, as well as the friends’ girl-power.”  ~ Lorna Landvik, best selling novelist

“There are two kinds of women, those who know these books and those who don’t. I reread these books every year, marveling at how a world so quaint – shirtwaists! Pompadours! Merry Widow hats! – can feature a heroine who is undeniable modern.”  ~ Laura Lippman, best selling novelist

“I read the Betsy-Tacy books when I was nine and ten years old, and the high school books later. I remember being moved by how loving and respectful the family members were to each other. My family life was more difficult and complicated, and the stories of Betsy’s family and friendships offered me a wonderful refuge. I don’t think I could have gotten through my childhood without them!”   ~ Fran Manushkin, author

“I am fairly certain that my independent, high-spirited grandmother must have had a childhood similar to Betsy Ray’s…As I read about the School Entertainment and ice cream socials, about ladies leaving calling cards and the milkman with his horse-drawn wagon, I felt that I was having an unexpected and welcome peek into Granny’s childhood—a gift to me from Maud Hart Lovelace”  ~ Ann M. Martin, author of The Baby-sitters Club

“I truly consider Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown to be the finest novel in the English language! I will never love any other books as much as I love the Betsy-Tacy books. Some authors create a warm, joyous world which the reader admires from afar, Maud Hart Lovelace creates her warm, joyous world, and then invites us all to come in and share it.” ~ Claudia Mills, children’s book author, National Book Award and Golden Kite Award winner

Maud’s diary dated Monday, Oct. 4, 1954: “The most wonderful letter from Vera who loves the first chapter [Betsy’s Wedding]. Thinks it had a poetic quality. Her letter was very helpful, as she advises me not to be limited by the hard time I had getting out Betsy and the Great World. Circumstances were so different then. She’s right. I am so terribly impressionable that I never seem to forget, subconsciously, an ordeal such as that one was. Just “roll with the punches,” she says. And tells me to let this book pour out just as it’s started.”  ~ Vera Neville (1904-1979), author/illustrator. Vera illustrated six Betsy-Tacy books and three Deep Valley books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

“What I loved about Lovelace’s stories is that they were about “ordinary children” and “ordinary adventures” that a child could imagine doing in a world where a child would want to live.”  ~ Sheila O’Connor, award winning author

“In the writing of the Island of the Blue Dolphins, I am deeply indebted to Maude and Delos Lovelace.”  ~ Scott O’Dell (1898-1989), Newbery Medal winner for the Island of the Blue Dolphins, did not know that he had written a children’s book until he showed the manuscript to a friend, Maud Hart Lovelace, the author of the Betsy-Tacy books. She told him that it was a book for children, and a very good one.

“I devoured Emily of Deep Valley so often I knew parts by heart. I kept sneak-reading it as a teen and as a college student, hiding my habit while discussing trendy intellectual novels. On wintry evenings, curled up by the fire in New England, I still turn to my copy as comfort fare, drawing nourishment and inspiration from the pages. “Muster your wits; stand in your own defense,” Mrs. Lovelace exhorts us through the power of story, and Emily’s words can always bring me to my metaphorical feet.”  ~ Mitali Perkins, acclaimed children’s writer

“How did Maud influence me? By showing me that the dailyness of life, the quotidian, is novel-worthy.”  ~ Marsha Qualey, award-winning author

“There are three authors whose body of work I have reread more than once over my adult life: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Maud Hart Lovelace. We fell in love, not only with Betsy but with Tacy and Tib and all the others, and wanted to know from year to year what was happening to them. Betsy-Tacy fans never die. They just re-read.”  ~ Anna Quindlen, best selling author, Pulitzer Prize winning writer

“I don’t think I can begin to measure the influence Maud Hart Lovelace has had on me. Her books have always been a safe harbor I could retreat to when the pressures of the real world became overwhelming; her characters served as role models when living, breathing role models were in short supply. Best of all, the books are a joy to read, even after re-reading them steadily for more than 30 years.  Lovelace’s gift as a writer is truly the gift that keeps on giving.”  ~ Amy Dolnick Rechner, author Between Deep Valley and the Great World and A Future in a Handbasket

“The Betsy-Tacy books are timeless stories that transport you back to the days of the horse and buggy and whose characters will become your best friends. Maud Hart Lovelace has given us a wonderful gift in these books that will be treasured forever.”  ~ Julie A. Schrader, author Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley and Discover Deep Valley

“I grew up in Maud’s Deep Valley, and whenever I need to go home again, I reach for the Betsy-Tacy books. It’s like having a childhood best friend who never leaves your side.” ~ Charity Tahmaseb, author The Geek Girls Guide to Cheerleading

“When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, Maud Hart Lovelace’s stories about Betsy and her friends entranced me. I followed Betsy, Tacy, Tib and the others as I too passed through early childhood into an adult world.  Although set in an even earlier period of time, these stories affirmed for me the emotional significance of so-called “ordinary” events in girls’ lives.  Many years later, I am sure she inspired writers like me to write about our own lives, heartened by understanding that “ordinary” is not ordinary at all.”   ~  Susan Allen Toth, author

“As a Minnesota girl, I read the Betsy-Tacy books about a thousand times as a kid. I used to go to sleep at night with one of the books under my pillow whispering to myself about the girls, hoping I’d dream I was playing with them.”  ~ Anne Ursu, award-winning author

“At school visits, when kids ask what books I read as a child, I have only one answer: Betsy-Tacy—the entire series. In the summer I read them lying on a blanket under a massive oak tree. In winter, I read them curled under the covers in my “Hollywood” style bed. When I finished Betsy’s Wedding, I’d start over again. Truthfully I think those were the only books I read as a child. But they were enough to make me know that characters in books had true and honest feelings and that made the difference.  ~ Maryann Weidt, children’s book author and Minnesota Book Award-winning picture book

“One of the great joys of my life was discovering the Betsy-Tacy books as a young editorial assistant at HarperCollins. We were reissuing the books with new covers, and my boss asked me to read them so I could help with catalog copy. I sat down at my desk and fell headlong into the series. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in getting to read them for work! I also couldn’t believe I’d missed them, growing up. By the time Betsy reached high school, I felt like I’d known her my whole life. As a writer, I deeply identified with her yearnings, her struggles, her distractions, her bursts of zeal. One of the other great joys of my life has been sharing Betsy, Tacy, Tib, and the rest of the Crowd with my own girls. I’ve watched all four of my girls fall in love with the books just as wholeheartedly as I did—and it’s been a deep delight to see what a role Maud’s books have played in their childhood and the development of their imaginations.”  ~ Melissa Wiley, children’s book author