Mitchell, Lucy Sprague (1878–1967)

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Mitchell, Lucy Sprague (1878–1967)

American educator and children's author. Born Lucy Sprague in Chicago, Illinois, on July 2, 1878; died of a heart attack on October 15, 1967; fourth of six children of Otho Sprague (a wholesale grocer) and Lucia (Atwood) Sprague; married Wesley Clair Mitchell (1874–1948, an economist), on April 6, 1912 (died 1948); children: four.

Loneliness, privacy, and secrecy dominated Lucy Sprague Mitchell's growing-up years which she shared with five siblings. "I kept to myself as much as I could in that crowded house," she recalled, "and tried my best not to let anyone in on anything I cared about." Attending Radcliffe against the wishes of her father, Mitchell went on to become the first dean of women at the University of California at Berkeley, starting out as advisor to the dean in 1903. She devoted her life to the education of children.

In 1916, she and her husband, economist Wesley Clair Mitchell, along with Harriet Johnson , founded the Bureau of Educational Experiments, later known as the Bank Street College of Education. Mitchell was also responsible for its Writer's Laboratory, inviting publishing professionals to attend. This was no "common garden variety course" wrote Edith Thatcher Hurd . "If you survived Lucy's classes on language, the laboratory was the 'whipped cream,' an intense but richly rewarding experience." Mitchell's own Here and Now Story Book, published in 1921, was widely recognized as a radical departure in the writing for children. She argued that children's stories should start with the familiar, something from the child's world, before opening out to broaden that world. In the introduction, she also maintained that form was just as important as content and proposed a new child-centered literature, using rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. Her credo: "While we are learning, there is hope."

suggested reading:

Antler, Joyce. Lucy Sprague Mitchell: The Making of a Modern Woman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987.

Mitchell, Lucy Sprague. Two Lives: The Story of Wesley Clair Mitchell and Myself. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1953.

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