2012-2013 Season,  A Wrinkle in Time

Who is Madeleine L’Engle?

by Patrick Hayes, dramaturg

To start our journey with A Wrinkle in Time, I wanted to take a look at the author of the original novel.  Just who is Madeleine L’Engle?

About the Author

The Early Years:
Madeleine L’Engle was born in New York City on November 29, 1918, and named after her great-grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle. Her mother, a classically trained pianist, was also named Madeleine. Her father, Charles Wadsworth Camp, was a writer, a critic, and a foreign correspondent during World War I. With the influence of her loving parents, L’Engle wrote her first story at age four and began keeping a journal at age eight. Her early literary attempts did not translate into academic success at the school where she was enrolled. Being a shy child, she was often branded as slow and mentally challenged by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing.

Adulthood and Career:
MadeleineL’Engle attended Smith College from 1937 to 1941. After graduating cum laude, she moved to an apartment in New York City. In 1942, she met actor Hugh Franklin when she appeared in the play The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. L’Engle married Franklin on January 26, 1946, the year after the publication of her first novel, The Small Rain. The couple’s first daughter, Josephine, was born in 1947. The family moved to Goshen, Connecticut in 1952 where their son Bion was born that same year. Four years later, seven-year-old Maria, the daughter of family friends who had died, came to live with the Franklins, and they adopted her shortly thereafter.

madeleine_lengleIn 1959 the family returned to New York City so that Hugh could resume his acting career. The move was immediately preceded by a ten-week cross-country camping trip, during which L’Engle first had the idea for her most famous novel, A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle completed the book by 1960, but more than two dozen publishers rejected the story before Farrar, Straus and Giroux finally published it in 1962. After Wrinkle, L’Engle wrote dozens of books for children and adults throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. One of her books for adults, Two-Part Invention, was a memoir of her marriage, completed after her husband’s death from cancer on September 26, 1986. A few compilations of her older work, some of it previously unpublished, appeared after 2001.

In her final years, L’Engle became unable to travel or teach due to reduced mobility from a cerebral hemorrhage in 2002. L’Engle died of natural causes at Rose Haven, a nursing facility close to her home in Litchfield, Connecticut, on September 6, 2007, according to a statement by her publicist the following day. She is buried in the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan, New York City, New York.

Awards, Honors, and Organizations
Associate Dame of Justice in the Venerable Order of Saint John (1972)
USM Medallion from The University of Southern Mississippi (1978)
Smith College Award “for service to community or college which exemplifies the purposes of liberal arts education” (1981)
Sophia Award for distinction in her field (1984)
Regina Medal (1985)
Guest speaker at the Library of Congress, giving a speech entitled “Dare to be Creative!” (1985)
President of the Authors Guild (1985 – 1987)
ALAN Award for outstanding contribution to adolescent literature, presented by the National Council of Teachers of English (1986)
Kerlan Award (1990)

In her lifetime, she received over a dozen honorary degrees from as many colleges and universities, such as Haverford College. Many of these name her as a Doctor of Humane Letters, but she was also made a Doctor of Literature and a Doctor of Sacred Theology, the latter at Berkeley Divinity School in 1984. In 1995 she was writer-in-residence for Victoria Magazine. In 1997 she was recognized for Lifetime Achievement from the World Fantasy Awards. In 2004 she received the National Humanities Medal but could not attend the ceremony due to poor health.

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