(Go to It Happened in History Archives)
August 9, 1899, is the birthday of
P. L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins. Born Helen Lyndon Goff in
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, she grew up on a sugar plantation with
her two sisters. She is most remembered for her Mary Poppins books.
Before the publication of Mary Poppins, Pamela Lyndon adopted P. L.
Travers as her literary by-line.
She deliberately kept her life very private. In addition to living for a while in Ireland and London, she frequently traveled to America, where she was made writer in residence to both Smith and Radcliffe Colleges in Massachusetts. She also received an honorary doctorate from Chatham College, Pittsburgh.
In 1933, while recovering from an
illness at her home in Sussex, Travers wrote the first of several stories
about a prim British nanny who appears at a household on a high wind and
floats away when the wind changes. The idea for the
character came from a lady dressed in an old style whom Travers had watched
walk along the streets of Mayborough. Mary Poppins was
published in 1934. The book was an immediate success in the
U.K., as well as the United States. Between 1935 and 1988, she went on
to publish seven sequels, including Mary Poppins Comes Back and
Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane. The Walt Disney movie in 1964,
starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, was based on Travers' stories.
Besides writing eight Mary Poppins books and several other children's stories, Travers was a poet and a novelist who kept company with both Yeats and T. S. Eliot. She died in London on April 23, 1996.
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