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P. L. Travers

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.

Travers spent her childhood in Australia.  By the time she reached her twenties, she had already worked as an actor, a dancer, and a writer in her native land.  Eager to see more of the world, she left for Dublin, where she befriended the great Irish poet and economist, George Russell, known as "A.E."

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.

"Mary Poppins is both a joy and a curse to me as a writer," Travers once said.  As a writer, you can feel awfully imprisoned, because people, having had so much of one thing, want you always to go on doing more of the same."

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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