Nevertheless, She Persisted: Mary Mapes Dodge

Mary Mapes Dodge

Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905)

Although she’s now mainly remembered for her children’s novel Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates, Mary Mapes Dodge’s largest influence on literature may have been through her editorship of St. Nicholas Magazine.

Widowed at age 27, and with two children to support, Dodge began writing short stories and poems. After the success of Hans Brinker in 1865, she was hired by editor Harriet Beecher Stowe to run the household and children’s departments of the magazine Hearth and Home. From there, Dodge became the first editor of St. Nicholas Magazine, a monthly periodical aimed at children.  She was able to persuade many great authors to publish stories in St. Nicholas Magazine, including Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jack London, and Rudyard Kipling. Issues of the magazine featured lavish and detailed illustrations by some of the greatest illustrators of the era, including Charles Dana Gibson, Arthur Rackham and Howard Pyle.

Mary Mapes Dodge felt that children themselves should play an active part in the magazine; not only did each issue offer –in addition to fiction and poetry — a variety of puzzles and activities aimed at all ages, but St. Nicholas Magazine solicited writing and art submissions from its readers, and offered prizes for the best work. (In the years after Dodge’s tenure at the magazine, winning these competitions proved indicative of later artistic and literary success: E.B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay and William Faulkner were all prize winners.)

On the cover of many issues, Dodge is not credited as “editor,” rather, her byline is “Conducted by Mary Mapes Dodge.”  And “conductor” suits her In every sense of the word — “leader,” “guide,” “collector,” and perhaps most of all, “material capable of transferring energy from one medium to another.”

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