Skinner, Constance Lindsay 1877-1939

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SKINNER, Constance Lindsay 1877-1939

PERSONAL: Original name, Constance Annie Skinner, born December 7, 1877 in Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada; died of influenza, March 27, 1939, in New York, NY; daughter of Robert (a Hudson's Bay factor), and Annie Lindsay.

CAREER: Poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, and historian.

AWARDS, HONORS: Prizes from Poetry, Bookman, and Lyric West for poems from Songs of the Coast Dwellers, 1930.


Good Morning, Rosamund!, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1917.

(Contributor) The Path on the Rainbow: An Anthology of Songs and Chants from the Indians of North America edited by George W. Cronyn, Boni and Liveright (New York, NY), 1918.

Pioneers of the Old Southwest: A Chronicle of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1921.

Adventures of Oregon: A Chronicle of the Fur Trade, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1921.

(With Clark Wissler and William Wood) Adventures in the Wilderness, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1925.

Silent Scot, Frontier Scout, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1925.

Becky Landers: Frontier Warrior, Macmillan (New York), 1926.

The White Leader, Macmillan (New York, NY).

Roselle of the North, Macmillan (New York), 1927.

The Tiger Who Walks Alone, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1927.

Andy Breaks Trail, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1928.

The Ranch of the Golden Flowers, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1928.

The Search Relentless, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1928.

Red Willows, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1929.

Red Man's Luck, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1930.

Songs of the Coast Dwellers, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1930.

Debby Barnes, Trader, McMillan (New York, NY), 1932.

Beaver, Kings and Cabins, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1933.

Rob Roy: The Frontier Twins, MacMillan (New York, NY), 1934.

(Editor) The Rivers of America, six volumes, Farrar and Rhinehart (New York, NY), 1937-1939.

(Contributor) The Book of Canadian Poetry, edited by A.J.M. Smith, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1943.


David (play), produced at the Forest Theatre, Carmel, CA, July, 1910.

The plays The Lady of Gray Gables (1911-1912) and Birthright were performed in several U.S. cities.

Contributor to numerous publications, including Poetry Review, North American Review, and Poetry. Skinner's works have been translated into German.

SIDELIGHTS: Constance Lindsay Skinner was a Canadian poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, journalist, and historian. She is recognized primarily for adapting Indian songs. But, as Diana M. A. Relke explained in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Skinner was also a significant creative writer whose bestremembered West Coast Indian song adaptations involve original free-verse and imagistic poetry.

By age five Skinner had completed her first story; by age eleven an entire novel. She wrote In Gelderland, a musical sketch for children. Her father encouraged her interest in literature, while her surroundings fueled her creativity. Relke wrote, "Among Skinner's literary forefathers were the major eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers whose work she read as a child in her father's well-stocked library. In addition, she was personally acquainted with several Indian bards of the tribes with whom her father did business."

At sixteen, Skinner moved to California to stay long-term with an aunt, but her Canadian childhood experiences and her knowledge of Canadian history continued to appear in her creative work. She published a couple of short stories, also at age sixteen, and also contributed freelance to the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and other periodicals.

Later, she relocated to New York City and continued to work professionally, publishing fourteen novels, twenty-eight short stories, three plays, sixty poems, almost two hundred book reviews, four histories of American pioneer life, and a few history-related pieces. Her novels feature historical settings and detail pioneer circumstances, Indian culture, and the North American fur trade. She wrote several novels for young audiences, including Roselle of the North, which tells of a white girl the Cree Indians adopted. Red Willows, a novel for adults, takes place in British Columbia during the gold rush and dramatizes the relationship between a white man and an Indian.

Many American high schools used one of Skinner's histories, Adventures of Oregon: A Chronicle of the Fur Trade, their required reading lists in 1934. Songs of the Coast Dwellers is set in the Squamish Indian settlement on the north shore of Burrard Inlet in British Columbia.

Skinner won three writing prizes for Songs of the Coast Dwellers, from Poetry, where several pieces ran prior to book publication, Bookman, and Lyric West.

Several of her unpublished plays were performed: David, a three-act adaptation of the Biblical reign of King Saul; The Lady of Gray Gables, a romantic comedy; and Birthright, a tragedy set in British Columbia. In 1943, A. J. M. Smith's Book of Canadian Poetry featured several of Skinner's poems and, in a literary sense, returned her to Canadian readers. She had died five years earlier in New York City.



New, W.H., editor, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 92: Canadian Writers, 1890-1920, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990, pp. 366-369.


New York Public Library Web site, (January, 1999), "Guide to the Constance Lindsay Skinner Papers, 1873-1939."*

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Skinner, Constance Lindsay 1877-1939

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