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Bok, Edward W(illiam) 1863-1930

BOK, Edward W(illiam) 1863-1930

PERSONAL: Born October 9, 1863 in Helder, Netherlands; died of a heart attack January 9, 1930, in Lake Wales, FL; son of William J. H. (a Dutch diplomat) and Sieke Gertrude Bok; immigrated to United States, 1870; married Louise Curtis, October, 1896; children: William Curtis, Cary William.

CAREER: Editor and publisher. Reporter for Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn, NY, c. 1881; Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, stenographer, 1882; Brooklyn Review, editor, 1882-86; Brooklyn Magazine (later Cosmopolitan), founder, 1883; Bok Syndicated Press, founder, 1886; Charles Scribner, New York, NY, head of advertising department; Ladies' Home Journal, editor, 1889-1919. Merion Civic Association, cofounder, 1913; Philadelphia Belgian Relief Commission, vice president, 1917; member, National Y.M.C.A. War Work Council; state chair of Philadelphia Y.M.C.A. War Work Council, 1917.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize, 1921, and Academy of Political and Social Science Gold Medal, both for The Americanization of Edward Bok.

WRITINGS:

The Young Man in Business, Curtis (Philadelpia, PA), 1894.

Successward, Revell (Chicago, IL), 1895.

A Story of Some Pictures, Curtis (Philadelphia, PA), 1896.

The Young Man and the Church, Altemus (Philadelphia, PA), 1896.

Explaining the Editor, [Philadelphia, PA,] 1901.

Why I Believe in Poverty as the Richest Experience That Can Come to a Boy, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1915.

The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1920, with an introduction by John Louis Haney, 1921.

Two Persons: An Incident and an Epilogue, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1922.

A Man from Maine, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1923.

The Boy Who Followed Ben Franklin, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1924.

Twice Thirty: Some Short and Simple Annals of the Road, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1925.

Dollars Only, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1926.

America, Give Me a Chance!, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1926.

Mary's Son, a Christmas Brochure, Swastika (Merion, PA), 1927.

Perhaps I Am, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1928.

America's Taj Mahal, the Singing Tower of Florida, sketches by Milton B. Medary and Lee Lawrie, Georgian Marble Company (Tate, GA), 1929.

Contributed essays to books; contributed articles to periodicals, including Brooklyn Review, Brooklyn, and Ladies' Home Journal.

SIDELIGHTS: Edward W. Bok is remembered as a long-standing editor of the popular magazine Ladies' Home Journal at the turn of the twentieth century. During his tenure at the Journal, Bok used his position to initiate social change, educating readers and promoting modest reform in advertising, patent medicine, and sex education. Bok sometimes "sugar coated" the occasional bitter pill he asked his readers to swallow. Although the Ladies' Home Journal defied conventional taboos with some of its controversial positions, its campaigns to clean up the patent medicine trade and beautify America were in line with the magazine's target audience. Bok was especially concerned with the role of women in a turbulent era in American social history. He championed women as the moral backbone of the country, but stopped short of encouraging their involvement in matters extending beyond the home.

After Bok stepped down as editor of Ladies' Home Journal, he wrote his autobiography, The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1920. The book, written in the third person to inspire people from modest backgrounds, tells of Bok's emergence from poverty and his rise to power, a climb fueled by his optimism and perseverance. Bok explains why he wrote the book in its introduction: "Here was a little Dutch boy unceremoniously set down in America unable to make himself understood or even to know what persons were saying; his education was extremely limited, practically negligible; and yet, by some curious decree of fate, he was destined to write. … Buthowall this came about, how such a boy, with every disadvantage to overcome, was able, apparently, to 'make good'—this possesses an interest and for some, perhaps, a value which, after all, is the only reason for any book."

Bok's second book of autobiographical sketches, Twice Thirty, is generally regarded as more revealing of Bok's life. In addition to his work as autobiographer and editor, he was a philanthropist, donating money to various causes and organizations. Most notably, he established the American Peace Prize in an effort to create a plan that would replace prospects of war with prospects of peace. He also set up the Philadelphia Award, a prize given annually to a citizen of Philadelphia who makes an important contribution to the community. While retired in Lake Wales, Florida, Bok, a passionate environmentalist, created the Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, which now serves as a haven for endangered species.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Bok, Edward W., The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After, C. Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1920.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 91: American Magazine Journalists, 1900-1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.

Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Volume 22, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.

Reformer in the Marketplace: Edward W. Bok and the Ladies' Home Journal, Louisiana State University Press, 1979.

PERIODICALS

ATQ, December, 1998, Beth Dalia Snyder, "'Confidence Women': Constructing Female Culture and Community in 'Just among Ourselves' and the Ladies' Home Journal," pp. 311-325.

ONLINE

Philadelphia Award Web site,http://www.philadelphiaaward.org/ (July 1, 2003), "Edward William Bok."*

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