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Margaret Wise Brown papers

Biographical note

Margaret Wise Brown was born May 23, 1910 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised with an older brother and younger sister on Long Island. Her father, Robert Brown, worked for the American Manufacturing Company and her mother, Maude Johnson Brown, was a homemaker. She described her childhood as difficult and lonely. Her parents' marriage was not happy, and she spent a lot of time alone, exploring the beaches and woods of Long Island, and caring for her numerous pets.

Margaret left home at age 13 to attend boarding school in Switzerland, returning two years later to complete her high school education at Dana Hall in Massachusetts. In 1932 she received her B.A. from Hollins College in Virginia, her mother's alma mater. She then moved to New York City to intern at the Bank Street School, an experimental school for child-development study and teacher training, with intentions of becoming a teacher. While Margaret decided not to pursue a teaching career, the Writers Laboratory at the school inspired her. Margaret became a children's book editor at the William R. Scott publishing company, while also working at Bank Street and freelance writing. The books she wrote and edited were approved or revised based on responses to the story by groups of children enrolled at Bank Street. She published her first children's book, When the Wind Blows, in 1937. Over the next 14 years she published over 100 books for children, including the well known classics, Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.

Margaret Wise Brown entertained friends at her two homes, Manhattan's Cobble Court and The Only House on Vinalhaven Island in Maine. Animals were always a big part of her life. At one point she shared her small Manhattan home with a cat, a dog, a flying squirrel, and a goat. She had a long and difficult relationship with Blanche Oelrichs, a poet who wrote under the pen name "Michael Strange". Oelrichs had also been married to John Barrymore, the actor. Margaret eventually became engaged to a younger man, James Stillman ("Pebbles") Rockefeller, Jr. She was on a pre-honeymoon trip to Europe when she fell ill. She died in France of an embolism on November 13, 1952, two days after appendectomy surgery.