Mankato Honors Maud Hart Lovelace in 1961
In June 1961 the Mankato Free Press reported “Betsy Tacy Day’ is planned for October.” The Mankato Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) had been working on plans to bring Maud Hart Lovelace to Mankato, her childhood home.
The idea for the event was suggested at an AAUW board meeting that was held at the home of the board president, Kathryn Hanson, in May 1961. Ellen Skibness, a professor at Mankato State University, proposed the group sponsor a Betsy-Tacy weekend because Maud had grown up in Mankato and was writing about Mankato and most of the major characters were still living. The proposal was quickly accepted and it was decided that Dr. Anna Wiecking, who lived in the house across the street from the Gerlach house (Tib’s house) and knew many of the people involved, would be the general chair for the event.
The AAUW group was active all summer making plans and preparations. On August 19, 1961, the Mankato Free Press reported: “Mankato and the surrounding area will have a literary ‘treat’ this fall due to the efforts of the American Association of University Women, Mankato Branch. Maud Hart Lovelace, who lives at Claremont, California, and is famous for her Betsy-Tacy stories throughout the United States, will come to Mankato October 6 and 7 to speak to her admirers and friends.”
Betsy-Tacy Days was made official by a proclamation by Mankato Mayor Rex Hill, who said Mrs. Lovelace’s visit to Mankato “would be of great interest to Mankatoans since the author was born and reared in our community.”
Betsy-Tacy Author Planned Only 1 Book
(Mankato Free Press- Friday, October 6, 1961)
“When I wrote my first Betsy-Tacy book I never planned to write another. But the children wanted more of them,” related Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy series of books for girls.
Mrs. Lovelace is the guest of honor this weekend at Betsy-Tacy Day in Mankato, an event sponsored by the Mankato branch of the American Association of University Women.
“The Betsy-Tacy books have been rewarding to me because of the correspondence from children in every state in the Union,” said Mrs. Lovelace, a native of Mankato. “The children ask me about characters in the books and they tell me what books they want next.”
Mrs. Lovelace wrote her first Betsy-Tacy book in 1940 and 11 others in the series have followed. Other children’s stories have also been written by her since the advent of the Betsy-Tacy tales.
“I’ve always written. I sold my first story when I was 18 years old to the Los Angeles Times while visiting my grandmother in California. ‘No. 8’ was the title of the article. It was the number of a streetcar somebody was murdered on. That’s all I can remember about it. It sold for $10.
“My second story was called ‘Three Roses.’ My husband always said it should have been ‘Four Roses.’
“I married Delos Lovelace in 1917. He wrote short stories for The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines but I wasn’t good at short stories. He suggested I write novels,” remarked Mrs. Lovelace.
Mrs. Lovelace did write novels, six of them. Two were written with her husband. The first was “The Black Angels,” a book which was staged in Blue Earth county.
Ft. Snelling is in the background for “Early Candlelight.” “One Stayed at Welcome” relates to Minneapolis and the Fairmont area is the setting for “Gentlemen from England.” “Petticoat Court” and “The Charming Sally” were the novels written with her husband. [Editor’s note: Books co-authored by Maud and Delos Lovelace were “One Stayed at Welcome,” “Gentlemen from England” and “The Golden Wedge: Indian Legends of South America.”]
Mrs. Lovelace said she developed her interest in children’s stories when she started telling stories to her daughter, Merian, who is now the wife of a magazine editor in New York City, N.Y., and also a short story writer.
Mrs. Lovelace’s husband has continued his writing since retiring from the staff of the New York Telegram and Sun. He has written a biography of former President Eisenhower for children and two other juvenile books in recent years.
The next Maud Hart Lovelace book will be entitled, “Betsy’s Bettina.” “I have done some work on the book but it really hasn’t started rolling.” The latest in the Betsy-Tacy series will be about the child of Betsy and her husband.
Mrs. Lovelace has not visited Mankato since 1953. She moved to Minneapolis from Mankato in 1910, the year she graduated from Mankato high school, but still recalls what the city was like then.
“I lived at 333 Center Street. At that time the hills at the end of Center were completely wild. We called it the Big Hill. Now it is called Sumner Hill. There were only one or two houses on the hill then.
There is another great change. The slough is gone. The high school is on it.
“We drove up Front Street last night. The only change I notice is the traffic. My father had a shoe store on Front street. He sold it to Wood and Sterling. The rest of the town looks quite natural to me,” she commented.
“The college was the Normal school then with only two or three buildings. The second house I lived in during high school in Mankato is now the journalism house at Mankato State college.
“I can’t imagine a more wonderful place than Mankato for children to grow up. There is something about it that is friendly. I’ve always loved it. Being large won’t change it,” said Mrs. Lovelace.
With Mrs. Lovelace, who is Betsy in her series of books, are other persons who are the basis for characters in the stories.They include: Mrs. Frances Kenney Kirch (Tacy), of Buffalo, N.Y.; Mrs. Marjorie Gerlach Harris (Tib) of Chicago, Ill.; Mrs. Beulah Hunt Ingenfritz (Winona) of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Mrs. Ruth Williams (Alice) of Port Orchard, Wash.; and Mrs. Mildred Oleson Cahill (Irma) of Waseca. Other characters in the books are Mankatoans, Mr. and Mrs. Jabez Lloyd (Cab and Irene) and Mrs. Eleanor Wood Lippert (Dorothy).
Also in Mankato is a life-long fan of the Betsy-Tacy stories, Libby Demp, of Philadelphia, Pa. Miss Demp has corresponded with Mrs. Lovelace since the first of the books appeared on the market. “I always wanted to be a writer. I admired the characters in the books,” said Miss Demp, who is chairman of public relations for the Academy of Natural Science, the oldest natural history center in the country.
Miss Demp and another Philadelphia woman have written a book on secretarial careers for young women which will be published next year. “Mrs. Lovelace has been an inspiration in my writing. When I signed the contract for this book I phoned her first.”
After leaving Mankato, Miss Demp will visit Minneapolis and Milwaukee, other settings for the Betsy-Tacy books, prior to returning to Philadelphia.
Mrs. Lovelace will speak at Lincoln school at 8 p.m. today. Saturday she will give a talk to children at the school at 10 a.m. She will autograph books at the Mankato public library from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
From 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday there will be a “turn of the century” exhibit of items in use during the Betsy-Tacy period, including some personal items belonging to Mrs. Lovelace. The exhibit will be at the Blue Earth county museum.
Also, there will be foot tours of the locales of the Betsy-Tacy stories.
Monday, Mrs. Lovelace will visit friends in Minneapolis. Wednesday she will return to her home in Claremont, Calif.