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  • Mitzi Myers, 9 October 1939-5 November 2001
  • Gillian Adams (bio)

Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, lectorum delectando pariterque monendo [The one who mixes the useful with the pleasant gets every vote by equally delighting and instructing the reader].

Horace, Ars Poetica lines 343-44

J. D. Stahl's 14 November 2001 email to the members of the Children's Literature Association with the news of Mitzi Myers' unexpected death from the complications of pneumonia contracted in the aftermath of a fire in her home in Fullerton, California, 13 August 2000, was a shock. The sad news was carried as well on the child_lit listserve, and there were substantial and well-deserved obituaries in both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. In response I would like to give a brief overview of Mitzi's career and pay tribute to her and to the revolutions that she initiated in the field of children's literature.

Mitzi was born in Sulpher Springs, a small town in Northeast Texas. According to her sole survivor and sister, Patsy Myers, from early childhood she was a lover of reading and of books ("Mitzi"). Mitzi received her bachelor's and master's degrees from East Texas State University and her Ph.D. from Rice, where she also was a teaching assistant (1962-63). Her dissertation was "Aspects of William Godwin's Reputation in the 1790s." Her research on Godwin, combined with her growing interest in feminist literary criticism, soon led to publications on Harriet Martineau, Hannah More, Mary Wollstonecraft, and other eighteenth and nineteenth-century woman writers. Mitzi was assistant professor at the University of California Santa Barbara from 1966 to 1973, but did not make tenure, probably due to her inability to complete the books she was always working on. Given the publication of over 75 scholarly articles by the time of her death ("Mitzi"), it would seem that she had more than enough material for several books, particularly one on Maria Edgeworth. Her husband, Dennis Hengeveld, died in 1983 (Honan).

After 1973, Mitzi embarked on the tenuous career of a lecturer at a number of academic institutions such as California Polytech Pomona, California State Fullerton, California State Long Beach, Chapman University, and Scripps College, often simultaneously, and starting in 1980, intermittently at UCLA. She received a number of grants and fellowships; her NEH fellowship (held 1986-87), her Guggenheim (held 1992), along with her 1991 and 1993 research grants from Yale, among others, must have provided a welcome respite from all the driving she had to do. It seemed to those of us who wrote letters on her behalf, that every year initiated a new effort to provide enough grant money or teaching to fund her scholarly pursuits. Like all lecturers, it seems, she had to teach extensively in writing programs, developing at UCLA curricula for undergraduate basic writing skills, as well as teaching popular courses in children's and young adult literature. And yet, as is often the case with those stuck at the bottom of the academic ladder, she was arguably better known, more widely published, and a more distinguished scholar than many who had tenure at the institutions that she served.

Mitzi's career in children's literature seems to have begun with the essay "Children's Literature and Women's Studies," published in 1982, followed by two papers on Wollstonecraft at the 1984 MLA. From 1984 on, she gave a paper on Georgian children's literature at least once a year, if not at the MLA, then elsewhere. She first came to my attention with her ground-breaking 1986 essay "Impeccable Governesses, Rational Dames, and Moral Mothers: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Female Tradition in Georgian Children's Books" in Children's Literature 14, for which she won the 1988 Best Critical Essay Award from the Children's Literature Association. This essay was followed by two essays and two reviews in the Children's Literature Association Quarterly. "'A Taste for Truth and Realities': Early Advice to Mothers on Books for Girls" (1987), and "Socializing Rosamond: Educational Ideology and Fictional Form" (1989) introduced us to Maria Edgeworth, Rosamond, and a totally new way of looking at the...


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