Tappan, Eva March

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TAPPAN, Eva March

Born 26 December 1854, Blackstone, Massachusetts; died 29 January 1930, Worcester, Massachusetts

Daughter of Edmund M. and Lucretia Logee Tappan

Eva March Tappan, whose father died when she was six years old, spent most of her childhood at various ladies' seminaries where her mother supported them both by teaching. Indeed, the first half century of Tappan's life belonged, one way or another, to educational institutions. After receiving a B.A. from Vassar in 1875, Tappan taught in secondary schools, first at the Wheaton Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts (1875-80), and later at the Raymond Academy in Camden, New Jersey, where she was also an associate principal (1884-94). In 1894 Tappan entered the University of Pennsylvania full time. There she earned an M.A. (1895) and a Ph.D. (1896), writing her dissertation on the 17th-century English poet, Nicholas Breton. In the same year she published her first book, Charles Lamb, the Man and the Author.

The following year, 1897, Tappan returned to teaching, this time as head of the English department of English High School, Worcester, Massachusetts. During the next seven years, she balanced the demands of teaching and authorship, writing several successful textbooks in history and literature, including In the Days of Alfred the Great (1900), England's Story (1901), and Our Country's Story (1902). In 1904, determined to devote all her energies to writing, Tappan resigned her post at English High School.

Tappan's books are characterized by a simple, direct style, extensive use of picturesque detail, and a pervasive sense of drama. Although the use of details and dramatization may not seem unusual now, it was at the time, for Tappan was among the first writers to present history in terms of the customs, culture, and manner of living of a people, rather than in terms of battles and political settlements. In addition, although Tappan's style is dramatic, she does not make the mistake of dramatizing at the expense of accuracy. Among her contemporaries and ours, the consensus is that her research was thorough and her interpretations sensitive. For example, her Little Book of the War (1918) is a careful attempt to explain the causes of World War I without recourse to the frenzied propaganda of the time.

In all of her more than 40 books, Tappan manages to be scholarly without being pedantic, informative without being didactic, and entertaining without being trivial. Her conviction that history was more than a record of wars helped to change the nature of historical writing for children.

Other Works:

In the Days of William the Conqueror (1901). Old Ballads in Prose (1901). In the Days of Queen Elizabeth (1902). The Christ Story (1903). In the Days of Queen Victoria (1903). Robin Hood, His Book (1903). A Short History of England's Literature (1905). The Golden Goose, and Other Fairy Tales (1905). A Short History of America's Literature (1906). American Hero Stories (1906). A Short History of England's and America's Literature (1906). America's Literature, with Selections from Colonial and Revolutionary Writers (1907). The Chaucer Story Book (1908). Letters from Colonial Children (1908). The Story of the Greek People (1908). Dixie Kitten (1910). A Friend in the Library (12 vols., 1910). An Old, Old Storybook (1910). The Story of the Roman People (1910). Old World Hero Stories (1911). When Knights Were Bold (1912). The House with the Silver Door (1913). Diggers in the Earth (1916). The Farmer and His Friends (1916). Makers of Many Things (1916). Travelers and Traveling (1916). The Little Book of the Flag (1918). Our European Ancestors (1918). Food Saving and Sharing (1918). The Little Book of Our Country (1919). Hero Stories of France (1920). Heroes of Progress (1921). Story of Our Constitution (1922). Ella, a Little Schoolgirl of the Sixties (1923). American History Stories for Very Young Readers (1924). Barry, the Dog Hero of the St. Bernard Pass (1924). Stories of America for Very Young Readers (1926). The Prince from Nowhere (1928).


Smith, D. V., Fifty Years of Children's Books (1963).

Reference works:

DAB. NAW (1971).

Other references:

Boston Evening Transcript (30 Jan. 1930).