“The Egg and I” author Betty MacDonald subject of new book

This news item comes to me from Ms. Kathy, an alert reader

and Madcap fan based in the Emerald City.

Betty MacDonald photo courtesy of The Seattle Times
Betty MacDonald
photo courtesy of The Seattle Times

Excerpted from Crosscut May 8, 2013. Nota bene: I cleaned up the punctuation in this article-MM

Book City: Paula Becker has Mrs. Piggle Wiggle on the brain

The HistoryLink staff historian is consumed with the idea of time and how Piggle Wiggle creator Betty MacDonald was so prolific.

By Valerie Easton 

Paula Becker is a staff historian for HistoryLink.org, an online encyclopedia of Washington state history. She’s at work on a history of the life and career of Betty (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle) MacDonald, who lived in Becker’s Ravenna neighborhood.

Tell us about the book you’re writing, and what got you interested in Betty MacDonald? 

I first became interested in Betty MacDonald when I realized that the neighborhood where I then lived, Ravenna, was actually a stone’s throw from the house where Betty and her family lived when her daughters were growing up. I’d enjoyed the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series as a kid, although I hadn’t loved Betty’s gigantic hit, “The Egg And I.”

After I made the Ravenna/Roosevelt neighborhood connection, I read Betty’s three later memoirs and was intrigued by her offbeat but heartfelt style and by what a great writer she was.

I sleuthed out the locations of all the houses Betty and her sister Mary Bard Jensen (who also wrote memoirs and the “Best Friends” juvenile series) lived in, and started writing about them for HistoryLink. I’ve worked on Betty’s story in one way or another for about 12 years now, and I feel that I want to take on the story of her life and career in a sort of personally exploratory biography. 

 I’m thinking a lot about autobiography/memoir as a genre—what it meant when Betty wrote in the 1940s and 1950s versus what it means now—and about what an enormously crazy enduring smash success “The Egg And I” was.  It came out right at the end of World War II, sold more than a million copies in hardback in less than a year and introduced Betty, her family and the Pacific Northwest to readers around the globe.  It has never officially been out of print—since 1945! It was—she was—a true phenomenon.


4 thoughts on ““The Egg and I” author Betty MacDonald subject of new book

  1. Wolfgang Hampel is working on a new Betty MacDonald biography.
    Wolfgang Hampel can use many documents for the very first time especially Betty MacDonald fan club letter collection. Betty MacDonald fan club letter collection includes more than 1000 letters written by Betty MacDonald and other family members.

  2. I welcome her writing a bio of Betty, I and many around the world have been waiting for it forever. Of course I have read everything she ever wrote and pretty much everything ever written about her. I have to say the work Wolfgang Hempel has done was not exactly for the right reasons. His interest in Betty is to sell tidbits of her life (packaged at a very high price and only available through him) to her devoted fans in the most unethical way. Search on him you won’t find much at all. Someone else like Paula needs to do it in a way fitting for Betty and her numerous fans and soon. I think Ms. Becker will do a great job with this and we have all been waiting forever for it. Also I always thought her true story would make a great movie many who don’t know of her would fall in love quickly if someone was skilled enough to write a screenplay and make a well done “Betty” movie.

  3. It looks like Anne Wellman beat them both to it with her biography, which came out in early 2016. I read it, and Mrs Wellman is obviously a fan of Betty MacDonald as it’s an affectionate portrait of Betty and her family. She looks in detail at how far the novels reflected Betty’s own life, and comes up with some surprising revelations. Anyway, it’s all there in the one book and it didn’t cost much! I got it on Amazon.

  4. Paula Becker’s biography came out in late 2016. Before that, Anne Wellman published her biography of Betty MacDonald in March, and unlike Audrey’s comment about Wolfgang Hempel, everything is in one book and at a reasonable price!

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