Mildred Butler Engdahl, 1897-1987
A Memorial by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Recently it struck me how strange it is that there are hundreds
of memorials for pets on the Web, but few if any for people. Apart from
tributes to well-known men and women, I can find only a handful. How is it
that I myself have long had a page remembering cats no longer with me, yet
none in memory of my mother--who for most of my life was my closest friend
I suppose most people share memories of loved ones with family and
friends. But I have few if any contacts with people who knew my mother, so
I want to give her more of a memorial than simply the dedication to my book
Enchantress from the Stars.
She too was a writer for young people, and some libraries still have her
books. Under her maiden name
Mildred Allen Butler,
she wrote two YA biographies, Actress in Spite of Herself: the Life of Anna Cora
Mowatt (Funk & Wagnalls, 1966) and Twice Queen of France: Anne of
Brittany (Funk & Wagnalls, 1967; a Junior Literary Guild selection; UK
edition, Bailey Brothers and Swinfen, 1972) plus two historical YA novels,
Rapier for Revenge (Funk & Wagnalls, 1969) and Ward of the Sun
King (Funk & Wagnalls, 1970). But she didn't begin this until her late
60s, at a time when young people's interest in historical books was on the
wane; otherwise she would have written many more.
I have made Twice Queen of France: Anne of Brittany available as an ebook at
Amazon com, Smashwords, and other retailers. As it's about a strong, independent woman
who became the ruler of a duchy when only 12 and by her early 20s had married two French kings,
it will be of interest to girls today. Actress in Spite of Herself and Ward of the
Sun King are now also available in ebook form.
Mildred Allen Butler was born in 1897 in New England, where she spent
her childhood. During her teen years her family lived in St. Louis,
returning each summer to Heron Island off the coast of Maine (on stories of
which I grew up). She attended Wellesley College and after graduation,
taught high school English for several years.
However, her major interest was in drama, especially community theater
work, and she left teaching to become the director of the Little Theatre
League of Richmond, Virginia (1925-1927) and the Portland Civic Theatre of
Portland, Oregon (1927-1929). She then moved to Los Angeles, married, and
later directed the Cheviot Hills Community Players there. She earned a
master's degree in drama during a year when we both attended the University
of Oregon, and again was a director at the Portland Civic Theatre in the
mid-1950s. She also directed many Children's Theater productions in Oregon
and in Santa Barbara, and published some plays for children.
My mother and I were very close, not only while I was growing up, but
always. During my adult life we were more like sisters than mother and
daughter, despite our 36-year age difference. We took two long trips to
Europe together. Though I had my own apartment for a few years, I gave it
up as soon as we could settle in the same city, and from then on we jointly
rented or bought our homes. Her own mother, my grandmother, lived with us
until her death in 1965 at the age of 101. We had a live-in helper to care
for her, and when, after she was gone, Mother did not want to be alone all
day while I worked, I welcomed the opportunity to become my mother's full-time
companion and thus gain time to write.
It proved to be an ideal arrangement. We moved back to Portland, which I
had always preferred to Southern California, and for a while we both were
publishing (here we are correcting galleys!) But as Mother aged, she
developed health problems, and so for the last decade of her life we were
both virtually homebound. Her mind remained sharp, and she continued to be
my best friend despite her physical limitations.
In this picture she was 84 years old. That was the year I got my first
home computer. The one below was taken a year later.
Mildred Butler Engdahl died in 1987, when she was 90. I will never stop
missing her, and wishing she were here to share my later life and see the
new editions of my books.
Sylvia Engdahl's Home Page: www.sylviaengdahl.com