Elizabeth George Speare: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Winning two Newbery Medals puts you in the elite company of authors like Elizabeth George Speare. In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at the life and writing career of this popular children's author.

Meet Elizabeth George Speare

Many authors of children's literature are well-known for writing or illustrating dozens, or even hundreds, of books. The writer in this lesson enjoyed popularity for just five works. Let's take a closer look at the life of Elizabeth George Speare, the recipient of two Newbery Medals and a Newbery Honor.


Elizabeth George Speare was born November 21, 1908, in Massachusetts to Harry Allan and Demetria George. She would later pick up the last name Speare after meeting and marrying her husband, Alden.

Speare realized her love of writing at an early age and developed her earliest stories when she was in high school. As a child, she kept a notebook of her writing and would share her stories with a cousin she was particularly close to.

She went on to pursue a bachelor's degree at Smith College and, later, a master's degree in English from Boston University. In the period between earning her master's degree and marrying her husband in 1936, Speare taught at a couple private high schools in Massachusetts.

After marrying, the couple relocated to Connecticut, where they had two children: Alden Jr. and Mary. Being a mother and wife took a lot of Speare's time, so her writing fell by the wayside. It wasn't until her children were well into their education that she was able to concentrate on her early passion for storytelling.

Getting Published

It might surprise you to learn that Speare's first published work as an author was not a book, but rather a magazine article describing a ski trip with her children. It was a fitting piece since the Speares spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoors together as a family.

That article launched many others about family and domestic life, finding their way into publications including ''Better Homes and Gardens,'' and ''Parents'' magazine.

Breaking into Books

You won't find a lengthy list of books with Speare's name attached. She crafted only four novels and a nonfiction book during her writing career. Calico Captive was the first to arrive in 1957, followed by The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Bronze Bow, The Sign of the Beaver and the nonfiction Life in Colonial America. Her only book for adults, The Prospering, was published in 1966.

Speare loved to focus on historical fiction and set her books in her native area of New England. She once wrote that she preferred writing historical fiction to tell the stories of everyday people confronted by the same choices and problems we all encounter. To that end, she wrote about a boy named Daniel in Biblical times (The Bronze Bow) and the friendship between two young girls in colonial Connecticut (The Witch of Blackbird Pond).

Speare's Popularity

The author's popularity started before her books ever reached the publication stage. It has been widely reported that the manuscript for The Witch of Blackbird Pond was so flawless, that the editor, Mary Silva Cosgrave, made only one change before sending the book to print.

Since then and despite her small arsenal of books, Speare has earned accolades such as being included on the Educational Paperback Association's top 100 authors list and being listed among the top children's authors read in a school setting. She is regarded as one of the top 100 children's authors of all time.

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