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Betty MacDonald (March 26, 1908 - February 7, 1958) was an American author who specialized in humorous autobiographical tales, and is best known for her book The Egg and I. She also wrote the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series of children's books. She is associated with the Pacific Northwest, especially Washington state.

Contents

Life and work

MacDonald was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado. Her official birth date is given as March 26, 1908; however, public records indicate that she was actually born in 1907, on March 26.[1][2][3] Her family moved from Butte, Montana, to the north slope of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1918, moving to the Laurelhurst neighborhood a year later and finally settling in the Roosevelt neighborhood in 1922, where she graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1924. MacDonald married Robert Eugene Heskett (1895-1951) in July 1927 when she was 20 years old[4] and he was 31, and the couple moved to a chicken farm in the Olympic Peninsula's Chimacum Valley, near Center a few miles south of the seaside community of Port Townsend.

Betty left Robert in 1931 and returned to Seattle, where she worked at a variety of jobs to support her daughters Anne and Joan from her marriage to Heskett. Once the couple was divorced, contact between the two ex spouses was virtually nonexistent. Betty MacDonald spent nine months at Firlands Sanitorium outside of Seattle in 1937-1938 for treatment of tuberculosis.

On April 24, 1942, she married Donald C. MacDonald (1910-1975) and moved to Vashon Island, where she wrote most of her books. The MacDonalds later moved to California's Carmel Valley in 1956.

MacDonald rocketed to fame when her first book, The Egg and I, was published in 1945. It was a huge bestseller and was translated into 20 languages. Loosely based on her life on a Chimacum Valley chicken farm, it introduced the characters Ma and Pa Kettle, who also were featured in the movie version of The Egg and I and were so popular a series of nine more films were later made featuring them.

MacDonald also published three other semi-autobiographical books: Anybody Can Do Anything recounting her life in the Depression trying to find work,The Plague and I about her stay in at Firlands Sanitarium for treatment of tuberculosis, and Onions in the Stew about her life on Vashon Island with her second husband and daughters during the War years. She also wrote the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series of children's books that are still popular today, and another children's book entitled "Nancy and Plum.".

Following his divorce from MacDonald in 1935, Robert Heskett relocated to Oakland, California, where he worked as a carpenter. He died at his Oakland apartment on Sunday, July 22, 1951 after an altercation which resulted in his being stabbed by a man named Thomas Blake. Also present at Heskett's apartment were Thelma Blake, the ex-wife of Blake, and their two young daughters. Blake was later arrested for Heskett's murder, though it is unclear if he was ever prosecuted for the incident. [5]

Betty MacDonald died in Seattle, Washington, of cancer on February 7, 1958, aged 49.

Legacy

A book recounting her childhood memories of Betty MacDonald, Much Laughter, A Few Tears, was published by her friend, Blanche Caffiere, in 1992.

Betty MacDonald's sister, Mary Bard (Jensen), also was a published author. Her books include a series of children's stories called the "Best Friends" series, as well as "Forty Odd," "Just Be Yourself" and "The Doctor Wears Three Faces," which was made into the 1950 film "Mother Didn't Tell Me," starring Dorothy McGuire, William Lundigan, and June Havoc.

In 1996 Betty MacDonald's family had been interviewed by journalist and author Wolfgang Hampel. The family members shared very interesting details about the fascinating life and work of Betty MacDonald. Especially Betty's youngest sister Alison Bard had a perfect memory and told very funny stories. She inherited the same talent as her famous sister Betty MacDonald. The Betty MacDonald Interviews were published in 2009 on CD/DVD incl. the biography of Betty MacDonald written by Wolfgang Hampel.

In 2007, Betty MacDonald's daughter, Anne MacDonald Canham, published Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, based on stories and characters created by her mother. The book is attributed to both mother and daughter. Her younger daughter, Joan MacDonald Keil, died in July 2005.

On March 13, 2008, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a tribute programme to Betty MacDonald, commemorating the 100th anniversary of her birth. In 2009, BBC Radio 4 also broadcast a reading of MacDonald's book, "Anybody Can Do Anything."

Betty had three sisters, Mary Bard Jensen, Dorothea Bard Goldsmith, & Alison Bard Beck. She also had one brother, Sydney Cleveland Bard. Only Alison Bard Beck is still living. Another sister, Sylvia, died in infancy.

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ U. S. census of 1910, taken in Placerville, Idaho on May 2 and 3, shows that Elizabeth Bard was three years old.
  2. ^ U. S. census of 1920, taken in Seattle, Washington on January 15, 1920, shows that Elizabeth Bard was 12 years old.
  3. ^ U. S. census of 1930, taken in Center, Washington on April 24, 1930, shows that Elizabeth Heskett was 23 years old.
  4. ^ In the 1930 census Robert and Elizabeth Heskett state that they had been married for three years
  5. ^ San Antonio (Texas) Express, July 24, 1951

External links

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