Tappan, Eva March (1854–1930)

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Tappan, Eva March (1854–1930)

American teacher, children's author, and anthologist. Born on December 26, 1854, in Blackstone, Massachusetts; died from Parkinson's disease on January 29, 1930 (one source indicates January 30), in Worcester, Massachusetts; daughter of Edmund March Tappan (a minister) and Lucretia Logée Tappan (a teacher); educated in private schools; Vassar College, B.A., 1875; University of Pennsylvania, M.A., 1895, Ph.D., 1896.

Selected writings:

Charles Lamb, the Man and the Author (1896); In the Days of Alfred the Great (1900); England's Story (1901); Old Ballads in Prose (1901); In the Days of Queen Elizabeth (1902); In the Days of Queen Victoria (1903); The Christ Story (1903); Robin Hood: His Book (1903); A Short History of America's Literature (1906); The Chaucer Story Book (1908); The Story of the Greek People (1908); Dixie Kitten (1910); When Knights Were Bold (1912); The House with the Silver Door (1913); Diggers in the Earth (1916); Ella: A Little Schoolgirl of the Sixties (1923).

Selected works as editor-compiler:

Selections from Emerson (1898); American Hero Stories (1906); Folk Stories and Fables (1907); Myths from Many Lands (1907); The Children's Hour (1907); Stories of Legendary Heroes (1907); Poems and Rhymes (1907); A Friend in the Library (15 vols., 1909); The Book of Humor (1916); Adventures and Achievements (1929).

Eva March Tappan was born in Blackstone, Massachusetts, in 1854, the only child of Edmund March Tappan, a minister, and Lucretia Logée Tappan . In 1857, the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Edmund had a pastorate. When he died three years later, Lucretia took a position as a teacher with the Smithville Seminary. While growing up, Eva, usually the youngest in her class, attended several private schools where her mother happened to be teaching, although she would have preferred to attend public school. In 1871, she started college at Vassar, where she was author of her class history and editor of the Vassar Miscellany. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Tappan received a bachelor's degree in 1875 and taught Latin and German at Wheaton College in Massachusetts until 1880. She also was an associate principal at Raymond Academy in Camden, New Jersey, from 1884 to 1894. Tappan next attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned an M.A. in 1895 and a Ph.D. the following year, with a dissertation on the 17th-century English poet Nicholas Breton. In 1897, she began teaching English at the English High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she also directed school plays.

Tappan retired from teaching in 1904 to devote more time to writing, focusing on works for grade-school and high-school students. Many of her books were used in schools. Thoroughly researching her stories, Tappan brought to life kings and queens, knights, Greek and Roman societies, folk heroes, and historical and literary figures. She also translated folk tales from other countries and edited The Children's Hour, a 15-volume collection of literature, myths, and adventure and nature stories. Until 1928, she published a new book almost every year.

During World War I, Tappan worked as an assistant editor for the U.S. Food Administration. She was also a member of the Boston Authors' Club as well as the secretary for the Worcester Humane Society. Toward the end of her life, she suffered from growing deafness and lived in quiet retirement. Tappan died at age 75 from Parkinson's disease, and her ashes were buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence. To Vassar College, she bequeathed a generous scholarship fund for girls from Worcester County.


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

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan