Green, Constance McLaughlin (1897–1975)

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Green, Constance McLaughlin (1897–1975)

American author, teacher, military historian at the Pentagon and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History. Born Constance Winsor McLaughlin on August 21, 1897, in Ann Arbor, Michigan; died in 1975; one of six children of Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin (a historian and college professor) and Lois Thompson (Angell) McLaughlin; graduated from University High School, Chicago, Illinois, 1914; at tended the University of Chicago; Smith College, B.A., 1919; Mount Holyoke College, M.A. in history, 1925; Yale University, Ph.D., 1937; married Donald Ross Green (a textile manufacturer), on February 14, 1921 (died, November 1946); children: one son and two daughters.

Constance McLaughlin Green, whose father was a noted historian and college professor, closely followed his career path, even duplicating his Pulitzer Prize in History. She was born in 1897 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began her schooling in Chicago, where the family moved after her father joined the faculty of the University of Chicago. After graduating from high school, she attended school in Germany for a term before enrolling at the University of Chicago. After two years there, she transferred to Smith College, receiving her B.A. in 1919. She taught freshman English at the University of Chicago and at Smith before her marriage in 1921 to Donald Ross Green, a textile manufacturer. The couple moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, where Green enrolled at Mount Holyoke College in nearby South Hadley. She earned her M.A. in 1925, after which she combined a part-time teaching position with growing family responsibility. During the Depression, Green raised three children and studied for her doctorate at Yale University. In 1937, one year after her father won the Pulitzer Prize in History for The Constitutional History of the United States, she received her Ph.D. and also won Yale's Edward Eggleston Prize in History. Her dissertation, Holyoke, Massachusetts: A Case History of the Industrial Revolution in America, published in 1939, was a pioneering work on urban evolution that presented a well-documented, yet highly readable, study on Holyoke's transformation from an agrarian town to an industrial center.

Green returned to Smith College, this time as a history instructor, a post she held until 1942, when the United States entered World War II. At that time, she left Smith to become an Army Ordinance Department historian at the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. After the death of her husband in 1946, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a consulting historian for the Red Cross. In 1948, she became chief historian for the Army Ordinance Corps, heading a research team in writing a volume on the technical services. She left her post in 1951, because, as she told the Washington Sunday Star (May 20, 1952), "the brass tried repeatedly to speed up the historians."

After a stint as a lecturer at University College in London, Green returned to Washington to work as a historian at the research and development board for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In 1954, she was named head of the Washington history project, which was funded by a six-year Rockefeller Foundation grant. The project culminated in Washington, Village and Capital, 1800–1878, published in 1962, which won critical acclaim. John McKelway, described the book in the Washington Sunday Star (May 20, 1962), as an "entertaining narrative of the life of the city and its people, many of whom came up from slavery. More than anything else, perhaps, it is a tale of Washington trying to live up to its name." Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., then special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, called the book "lucid," "authoritative," and "enthralling." For the work, Green was awarded the 1963 Pulitzer Prize in History. Upon hearing the news, she set out to buy her grandson a pair of bright, new red suspenders. "My mother told my father that she certainly hoped he would not invest [his Pulitzer] money, but would spend it for some fun or something he really wanted," Green explained to Dorothy McCardle of the Washington Post (May 8, 1963). "My father thought a minute, and then he said that yes, he would have some fun with it. He'd go out and buy a new pair of suspenders."

Green produced a second and longer companion volume of Washington history, Washington, Capital City 1879–1950, in 1963. Her other books include History of Naugatuck, Connecticut (1949), Eli Whitney and the Birth of American Technology (1956), and American Cities in the Growth of the Nation (1957). She also contributed chapters to a number of other historical works and authored articles for leading American encyclopedias and journals. Described as a small, bouncy woman with a "tartness in her talk," Green enjoyed camping, gardening, and reading, particularly detective stories, which at one time she tried to write until she discovered that she couldn't come up with a valid plot line. Constance Green died in 1975.


Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1963. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1963.

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