Hill, Grace Livingston (1865–1947)

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Hill, Grace Livingston (1865–1947)

American author who wrote moral stories that incorporated issues of the day. Name variations: Grace Livingston Hill-Lutz; (pseudonym) Marcia Macdonald.Born on April 16, 1865, in Wellsville, New York; died on February 23, 1947, in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; daughter of Reverend Charles Montgomery and Marcia (Macdonald) Livingston; attended Cincinnati Art School and Elmira College; married Rev. Thomas Franklin Hill, in 1892 (d. 1899); niece of Isabella Alden (1841–1930); married Flavius J. Lutz, 1904 (separated); children (first marriage) Margaret Livingston Hill (b. 1893); Ruth Glover Hill (b. 1898).

Grace Livingston Hill was born on April 16, 1865, the only child of a strict Presbyterian cleric who was descended from an old, distinguished New York family. Deeply religious, Grace had six other Presbyterian ministers in her family in addition to her father. She received her education from both public schools and private tutors, later attending Cincinnati Art School and Elmira College. Her love of writing was inherited from her mother Marcia Livingston and her aunt, Isabella Alden , both of whom composed religious literature for children and encouraged her efforts. Grace wrote her first book on her aunt's typewriter at the age of ten. She would later write the preface for Alden's last novel, An Interrupted Night, and recall:

a Christmas long ago when I was just beginning to write scraps of stories myself…. [My aunt's] gift to me that year was a thousand sheets of typewriter paper; and in a sweet little note that accompanied it she wished me success and bade me turn those thousand sheets of paper into as many dollars. It was my first real encouragement.

Grace published her first book, Chautauqua Idyl, at age 22. This work, about a group of flowers, demonstrated the imagination and simple style which would eventually make her so popular.

In 1892, Grace married Presbyterian minister Thomas Franklin Hill. They moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania, and had two daughters, Margaret and Ruth. Grace wrote little during this time, dedicating herself instead to her family. When her husband died of acute appendicitis in 1899, her obligation to support her daughters drove her to the work she loved, writing. She moved to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and wrote a syndicated column entitled "The Christian Endeavor Hour" which appeared in religious papers. She also began to write novels, averaging two to three books per year. By the end of her life, Hill had published a total of 79 books, with sales over three million.

Writing for an intended audience of adolescent females with rural, Protestant backgrounds,

Hill adhered to her strong religious upbringing. Her heroines experience various moral challenges before finding love and security founded on firm religious faith. Although her stories followed a formula, she incorporated current issues into her books. For example, The Red Signal—a story about a heroine who foils a plot by foreign agents to overthrow the U.S. government—appeared the same year that Americans were in the grips of fear over Communist infiltration in the United States.

Hill married for a second time on October 31, 1904, but her marriage to Flavius J. Lutz was, by all accounts, unhappy and ended in separation. For a period of time during her marriage, she wrote under "Grace Livingston Hill-Lutz" but soon abandoned the name. She also published several books using the pseudonym "Marcia Macdonald," her mother's maiden name.

Taking her position as a role model to young people seriously, Hill traveled around the country to speak to church groups. She also answered a flood of mail from troubled young readers. Among her most popular titles are The Witness (1917), The Enchanted Barn (1918), Matched Pearls (1933), Beauty for Ashes (1935), and April Gold (1936). Some critics consider Matched Pearls to be her best work. In 1918, her collaboration with Evangeline Booth produced a work of nonfiction, War Romance of the Salvation Army.

In 1926, Grace Livingston Hill founded a Sunday school mission near Swarthmore, which she continued to support until her death on February 23, 1947, of cancer. She was buried in a family plot in the Johnstown (New York) Cemetery. Hill's staunch morality and disapproval of such modern innovations as movies and jazz reduced her appeal to the post-World War II audience, but her books still sold two decades after her death.


Edgerly, Lois Stiles. Give Her This Day. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House, 1990.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland