It has always fascinated me that when a book or a song are so perfectly created that you think the song or the tale surely must have originated from the country written about. One example of this is Edelweiss by Oscar Hammerstein and another is Hans Brinker. Here is the story of the woman who wrote Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates.
Mary Mapes was born in New York City in 1831 into a prestigious New York family. Her father was an inventor and an entrepreneur who planned to revolutionize the farming industry with new chemical fertilizers. One of the investors in his fertilizer idea was a man named William Dodge, who later married young Mary Mapes.
Mary Mapes Dodge lived with her husband in New York City for five years, and had two sons. Then one night in 1858, her husband left the house and never came back. It turned out that he had drowned – possibly a suicide. She was devastated and took her sons to live on her father’s farm. She moved into a room in the attic, which she decorated with moss, leaves, flowers, and a painting of the Rhine River on the ceiling. She spent many hours in the attic playing with her sons and telling them stories, and eventually she began to write down the stories and submit them to magazines.
She had long been interested in writing something about Holland, although she’d never been there. She had some Dutch friends who had emigrated from Amsterdam, and she asked them to tell her everything they knew about their home country, what things looked like and smelled like, and the things people did and the food they ate and the stories they told their children at night. She used all of these details to write a children’s book called Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (1865), which became a best-seller. In the 15 years after it was published, it received more reviews than any other children’s book in America.
The historical background of Holland that Mary Mapes Dodge wrote about in Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (1865) included a story about a boy who saved Holland by sticking his finger in a dike. That story was her own invention, but it became so famous that many people believed it was an old Dutch folktale.
In 1872, Charles Scribner and two of his partners were thinking of developing a magazine for children, and they wrote to Dodge to ask for her advice. She replied: “The child’s magazine, needs to be stronger, truer, bolder, more uncompromising than the [adult’s]. … Let there be no sermonizing either, no wearisome spinning out of facts, no rattling of the dry bones of history. A child’s magazine is its pleasure ground.”
They were impressed enough by her response that they asked her to edit the children’s magazine, which became known as St. Nicholas. Dodge chose the name, because she said: “Is he not the boys’ and girls’ own Saint, the especial friend of young Americans? That he is. … And, what is more, isn’t he the kindest, best, and jolliest old dear that ever was known? Certainly again.”
St. Nicholas became one of the most successful children’s publications of all time. It included work by writers such as Louisa May Alcott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Alfred Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain. The magazine also encouraged young people to submit stories and poems for publication. Among the writers who first published their work in St. Nicholas were Ring Lardner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Edmund Wilson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I invite you to share a story about an inspiring woman in the comments section. Just leave us a link to your post. We can never read too many stories about inspiring women. ￼
The above information is from an article that was posted at The Writer’s Almanac.