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Lovelace, Maud Hart (1892–1980)

Lovelace, Maud Hart (1892–1980)

American writer of novels and children's books, best known for her popular "Betsy-Tacy" series, published between 1940 and 1955. Born Maud Hart on April 25, 1892, in Mankato, Minnesota; died on March 11, 1980, in California; daughter of Thomas Walden Hart (a salesman) and Stella (Palmer) Hart; studied at University of Minnesota, 1911–12; married Delos Wheeler Lovelace (a journalist), in 1917 (died 1967); children: one daughter, Merian Lovelace Kirchner (b. 1931).

Selected adult novels:

The Black Angels (1926); Early Candlelight (1929); Petticoat Court (1930); The Charming Sally (1932); (with Delos Wheeler Lovelace) One Stayed at Welcome (1934); (with Delos Wheeler Lovelace) Gentlemen from England (1937).

Selected juvenile novels:

Betsy-Tacy (1940); Betsy-Tacy and Tib (1941); Over the Big Hill (1942); (with Delos Wheeler Lovelace) The Golden Wedge: Indian Legends of South America (1942); Down Town (1943); Heaven to Betsy (1945); Betsy in Spite of Herself (1946); Betsy Was a Junior (1947); Betsy and Joe (1948); Carney's House Party (1949); The Tune Is in the Tree (1950); Emily of Deep Valley (1950); The Trees Kneel at Christmas (1951); Betsy and the Great World (1952); Winona's Pony Cart (1953); Betsy's Wedding (1955); What Cabrillo Found (1958); The Valentine Box (1966).

Born Maud Hart on April 25, 1892, in Mankato, Minnesota, Maud Hart Lovelace was one of three daughters of Thomas Walden Hart, a shoe salesman and county treasurer, and Stella Palmer Hart . Maud developed a precocious talent for writing that was to serve her well in her adult career as a writer. "I cannot remember back to a year when I did not consider myself to be a writer," she later wrote. Best known for her popular "Betsy-Tacy" series for children, she was to rely extensively on the personal journals—and exploits—of her childhood when working on the books that made her name as a writer.

Maud Hart began writing stories before she started school, hiding her first efforts in a maple tree outside her family's home. At 10, she had her father print up a booklet of her poems; at 18, after many submissions, she published her first short story, sold to the Los Angeles Times for $10. Maud graduated from high school in Mankato in 1910, and when the family moved to Minneapolis she attended university there. In 1914, she sailed for Europe, spending the months leading up to World War I in England.

In 1917, towards the end of the war, she married journalist Delos Wheeler Lovelace, who was then serving as an officer in a machine-gun battalion. After the war, Delos Lovelace took up newspaper work; he would later become a popular writer of short stories. The couple lived in Garden City, Long Island, and later at Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, eventually making their home in Claremont, California. Their only child, Merian, was born in 1931.

Maud Hart Lovelace published her first book, the historical novel The Black Angels, in 1926; she followed with five more historical novels, two of which she wrote with her husband in the years preceding World War II. In the bedtime stories Lovelace contrived for daughter Merian about her own childhood in Minnesota, she found inspiration for her "Betsy-Tacy" series and wrote the first book in 1940. Originally, the "Betsy-Tacy" books were not planned as a series; titles were added as the books grew in popularity and readers demanded more details about the childhood, adolescence and eventually college career and marriage of the characters Betsy and Tacy, two best friends who palled around so much that people thought of them as one person. Lovelace was to write ten "Betsy-Tacy" books in all, publishing the last, Betsy's Wedding, in 1955.

This popular series, with its heartwarming tales of a Midwestern childhood, has enjoyed enduring popularity. Lovelace recreated the peaceful, pleasant Mankato of the early 1900s, renaming it Deep Valley, complete with the yellow cottage in which she grew up and the shoe store owned by her father; both her sisters appeared in the books too, as the characters Julia and Margaret. Anchored by annual traditions, seasons and events, and informed by a fond nostalgia, the books center around the friendship of Betsy Ray, Tacy Kelly and Thelma "Tib" Mueller, with aspiring writer Betsy leading the gang in its adventures, pranks, mishaps and rites of passage.

Like Lovelace herself, Betsy Ray marries her true love and becomes a writer, an occupation that Lovelace regarded as her vocation. "Although I maintain that writing is the work I prefer," she once wrote, "I shall not even now pretend that it is easy…. I am, nevertheless, glad that I chose writing and, if I had to do it all over, I would choose the same way." Maud Hart Lovelace died on March 11, 1980, in California. In 1993, HarperTrophy paperbacks issued revamped editions of all ten books in the series, with cover art by Diane Goode ; the original inside illustrations by Lois Lenski , however, were not altered.

Paula Morris , D.Phil., Brooklyn, New York

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