Maud always told her fans that the Betsy-Tacy books were fiction based on fact and that she embellished the character of Betsy, making her more interesting and exciting than herself. Examples of this are found throughout all of the Betsy-Tacy books. The following are examples from the final chapters of Betsy and Joe.
High school was still important to Betsy. The Essay Contest was important. She assumed that Joe would win, but as a loyal Zetamathian she was going to try her hardest. Quote from Betsy and Joe
The fictional subject for the essay contest in Betsy’s senior year was ‘Conservation of Our Natural Resources’. Betsy’s strongest competition was Joe Willard and she expected that he would win. But this time Betsy, a member of the Zetamathians, won the contest.
In reality, Maud did not win the Mankato High School Essay Contest in 1910. Her sister Kathleen wrote in a letter to her family; “Hurrah, for our side, that Maude got second place in the essay contest!”
The Mankato Free Press, (February 7, 1910) reported in an article with the headline: Mankato High School Inter Society Contest. “This contest is for the purpose of stimulating interest in the matter of essay writing. A valuable silver loving cup was presented by the class of 1905, to become the property for each succeeding year only, of the society winning this contest.”
The subject for the contest in 1910 was ‘James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway: Its Influence on the Development of the Northwest.’ Thirteen students from each of the two societies entered the contest; of these, the ten ranking highest in order were: Alice Alworth, Maude Hart, Harriet Ahlers, Ethel Korsell, George Brotherton, Fred Mott, David Evans, Herman Hayward, Earl Grevin, Lois Mills. “The first three of these represented the Zetamathian society, and to that society accordingly the cup is awarded. The Zetamathians are to be congratulated, the more so, as this is the fourth time in five years that they have won it.”
We’re familiar with two of the higher ranking students, as they were friends that Maud used as characters in the Betsy-Tacy books; Harriet Ahlers (Hazel Smith ) and Herman Hayward (Stan Moore). But who is Alice Alworth – the winner of the Essay Contest in 1910? I’ll write more about her later.
With the Essay Contest out of the way, they had to think about Commencement orations. Betsy chose for her subject “The Heroines of Shakespeare,” and began to reread Shakespeare’s plays. Quote from Betsy and Joe
In reality, Maud’s oration at the 1910 high school commencement was entitled “The Heroines of Shakespeare”. The Free Press account of the commencement (June 1, 1910) is as follows: “Miss Maud Hart read a delightful dissertation on “The Heroines of Shakespeare.” She said that some of his characters were good and some bad, but the most were divided between good and bad, like real people nowadays. Women had no interpreter as sympathetic as Shakespeare. She reviewed the characters of Juliet, Rosalind, Ophelia, Lady Macbeth and Imogene, “the crowning flower of womanhood.”