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Dodge, Mary Mapes

DODGE, Mary Mapes

Born 26 January 1830, New York, New York; died 21 August 1905, Onteora Park, New York

Daughter of James J. and Sophia Furman Mapes; married William Dodge, 1851 (died); children: two sons

Mary Mapes Dodge' family moved often, finally settling in Irvington, New Jersey, where, on a large farm overlooking Staten Island and Manhattan, her father conducted horticultural experiments and edited a magazine called the Working Farmer. When Dodge rejoined her family at the farm after the death of her husband, her father started her writing for his magazine in order to occupy her time and assuage her grief. Dodge also began telling stories to her two young sons, and thus, with natural talent and great devotion, a long and successful career of one of America's first and best women writers and editors was inaugurated.

In 1864 Dodge was prompted to write a children's book. She had been reading Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic, and her boys had been captivated by the Dutch sport of skating, which was just becoming popular in the United States. Dodge was also acquainted with a Dutch family whom she visited often, listening to their memories and stories of Holland. Putting all this together, she wrote Hans Brinker (1865), which is still a bestseller after more than 100 years and many translations.

From 1865 on, Dodge helped to edit a magazine called Hearth and Home, until asked by Roswell Smith of the Century Company to start a children's magazine for them. So in 1873, Dodge became the editor of St. Nicholas, the greatest children's magazine of all time. Hans Brinker and St. Nicholas established Dodge' top-notch reputation, but she also produced a number of other books: A Few Friends (1869), Rhymes and Jingles (1874), Theophilus and Others (1876), Along the Way (1879), Donald and Dorothy (1883), and The Land of Pluck (1894).

St. Nicholas set a new and lasting pattern for children's literature: Kipling wrote The Jungle Books and Frances Hodgson Burnett Little Lord Fauntleroy for the magazine. Other top authors, among whom were Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Clemens, Alfred Tennyson, eager to be published in this vital periodical also sent Dodge their work. Many reputations were made in these pages. St. Nicholas was still thriving when, at age seventy-five, Dodge died at her summer residence in Onteora Park, New York.

Other Works:

Irvington Stories (1864). When Life Is Young (1894).

Bibliography:

Reference Works:

American Women (1897). DAB (1892). NCAB (1892). NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).

Other reference:

Century (Nov. 1905). Critic (Oct. 1905). Current Literature (Oct. 1905). NYT (22 Aug. 1905). St. Nicholas (Oct. 1905).

—CATHERINE MORRIS WRIGHT

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