Meigs, Cornelia Lynde (1884–1973)

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Meigs, Cornelia Lynde (1884–1973)

American writer and educator . Name variations: (pseudonym) Adair Aldon. Born on December 6, 1884, in Rock Island, Illinois; died on September 10, 1973, in Hartford County, Maryland; daughter of Montgomery Meigs and Grace Lynde Meigs ; Bryn Mawr College, degree in English, 1908; never married; no children.

Cornelia Lynde Meigs was a prolific and widely known author of children's literature. Spanning 50 years, her professional career included novels, short stories, biographies, histories, and dramas. The daughter of a civil engineer, Meigs grew up in Rock Island, Illinois, on the Mississippi River. She first attended public school and then entered Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she completed a degree in English in 1908.

From 1912 to 1913, she taught at a private school in Davenport, Iowa, where she amused her pupils with original stories. Her inventiveness and ability to capture the imagination of young children led her to write a collection of short stories, published in 1915 as The Kingdom of the Winding Road. By the time her first book appeared, Meigs had left her teaching position in Iowa and had returned to her large, close family in Illinois. Her initial publishing success and the support of her family convinced her that she should continue to write for children professionally.

Over the next two decades, Meigs produced 17 more juvenile novels and short story collections, several of which she chose to publish under the pseudonym Adair Aldon. She also wrote many plays for young people, the first of which, The Steadfast Princess, won the Drama League prize in 1915. Most of her works received critical praise for their themes of Christian morality and their idealization of family life. They were also enormously popular, as children responded to her realistic young characters and stories of courage and adventure, often in richly detailed historical settings.

In 1932, Meigs accepted a faculty position in English at Bryn Mawr, where she remained until her retirement in 1950. She continued to publish fictional works throughout her tenure at Bryn Mawr, but she expanded her writing interests to include American history and biography as well. A year after moving to Pennsylvania, she published Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women (Louisa May Alcott ), which received the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1934.

After retiring, Meigs divided her time between her homes in Vermont and Maryland. Five more of her juvenile novels were published between 1950 and 1968. In 1953, she edited and contributed to the scholarly A Critical History of Children's Literature, a widely acclaimed landmark survey of English juvenile literature from premodern times. Among her other works were a history of Bryn Mawr (1956) and a history of the United Nations (1964). In 1970, she published her final major book, Jane Addams : Pioneer for Social Justice, as well as an updated version of Invincible Louisa. Cornelia Meigs died at her Hartford County, Maryland, home in September 1973. She was 89.


Mainiero, Lina, ed. American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. NY: Ungar, 1994.

Pellowski, Anne. The World of Children's Literature. NY: Bowker, 1968.

Laura York , M.A. in history, University of California, Riverside, California

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