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Monday, November 15, 2021

'Hers For The Reading'


“The world was hers for the reading.”Betty Smith


Smith, who wrote one of the all-time best sellers, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, was born in Brooklyn on Nov. 14, 1896 and became a beacon for writers with a dream and the “can do” spirit to make it reality.

In her 20, despite “officially” never going beyond 8th grade and while working to put her husband through school and raising two young daughters, she convinced the Dean at the University of Michigan to allow her to audit writing classes, an opportunity that allowed her to hone her skills in both journalism and creative writing.  

Smith quickly found that she was among the most “listened to” students in her college classes, because she literally spoke with a voice from life experiences.  She lived life intensely and cared passionately about matters that others could only guess at, and her professors recognized this.  Ultimately, she was given the Avery Hopwood Award, the most prestigious writing prize bestowed by the University. 

In 1928, Smith started submitting stories to area newspapers and the N.E.A. Syndicate, selling some 50 articles to the Syndicate and places like the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, the Herald Tribune, Zenith Magazine and Ramer Review.  For this work she made $176.75 – “And I thought I was on top of the world,” she later recalled. 
A dozen years later, the success of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn earned her $95,805.76 in 1943 and more a quarter million in 1944 (before movie rights, which led to an Academy Award-winning movie in 1945).  She went on to write 3 more best sellers, including Joy in the Morning, another top-grossing book and movie.

 Betty Smith in 1945

In an era where entrance into the publishing world had been reserved for white men or upper-class women, she earned recognition as the first urban, working-class woman author.   “The fullness of life,” Smith wrote, “is open to all of us.


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