Sangster, Margaret E(lizabeth Munson)

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SANGSTER, Margaret E(lizabeth Munson)

Born 22 February 1838, New Rochelle, New York; died 4 June 1912, Brooklyn, New York

Also wrote under: Margaret Sangster

Daughter of John and Margaret Chisholm Munson; married George Sangster, 1858

A precocious little girl, Margaret E. Sangster learned to read at age four, and early showed interest in writing. Her childhood, as she was later to say, was "wholly beautiful and wholly sweet," and in her old age she looked back upon her education with approval: "It was in marked contrast to the education young women are receiving now, but I am inclined to think that, as a practical preparation for life, it may bear comparison with twentieth century methods." She attended schools in Paterson, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York.

In 1855, when Sangster was only seventeen, she wrote "Little Janey" and sold it to the Presbyterian Board of Publication, which then commissioned her to write 100 stories for children. After her husband's death in 1871 she began a long, fruitful career of writing and editing. She was, at different times, assistant editor of Hearth and Home; assistant editor of Christian at Work; family-page editor of the Christian Intelligencer; and editor of Harper's Bazar. In addition she was connected in various capacities with the Christian Herald, Harper 's Young People, Ladies' Home Journal, and the Woman's Home Companion.

Sangster's industry was remarkable; over the years she produced an incredible amount of poetry (published in various periodicals), as well as essays, short stories (many for children and young people), and novels. A number of Sangster's books are compilations of her short pieces, and all were popular in her day. Many of Sangster's essays and books were written for girls and young mothers. These combine the elements of "self-help" and inspiration and were well received by contemporary reviewers.

Sociable and friendly, Sangster possessed an unusually sweet and cheerful personality, nourished by an unshakable religious faith. Not one to fret at life's vicissitudes, she remarks serenely of her autobiography (1909) that from her youth she has "had more joy than sorrow, more pleasure than pain, more ease than hardship, and if my little book is optimistic, it is because optimism has been the dominant note of all my years." Such words are noteworthy when one considers Sangster had lived through the Civil War, with people dear to her on both sides of the conflict, and that her husband died when she was just thirty-three, leaving her with a young son.

Sangster's work is dated, but it was popular and respected during a long period of American life. By reading it, one may gain a vivid picture of the middle class in the half-century following the Civil War, what its basic ideals were, and how it felt those ideals to be threatened.

Other Works:

Manual of Missions of the Reformed Church in America (1878). Poems of the Household (1882). Some Fairies and Heart Flowers (1887). Little Knights and Ladies (1895). Easter Bells (1897). Home Life Made Beautiful in Story, Song, Sketch, and Picture (1897). Cheerful Todays and Trustful Tomorrows (1899). Winsome Womanhood (1900). Lyrics of Love, of Hearth and Home, and of Field and Garden (1901). Janet Ward: A Daughter of the Manse (1902). Eleanor Lee (1903). Good Manners for All Occasions (1904). What Shall a Young Girl Read? (1905). Fairest Girlhood (1906). Radiant Motherhood (1906). Story Bible (1906). An Autobiography: From My Youth Up (1909). Happy School Days (1909). Ideal Home Life (1910). Eastover Parish (1912). Mother Book (1912). My Garden of Hearts (1913).


Christian Herald (19 June 1912). NYT (5 June 1912). World's Work (Feb. 1910).