de Grummond Collection

McCain Library and Archives
University Libraries
University of Southern Mississippi


Collection Number
Collection Dates
Collection Volume
4.60 cu.ft. (12 boxes)

Biographical Sketch | Scope & Content | Related Collections | Series & Subseries | Box Inventory


Materials received from Margot Benary-Isbert between 1966 and 1972.


Noncirculating; available for research.


This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials, other than that noted above.

Biographical Sketch

Margot Benary-Isbert was born on December 2, 1889 in Saarbruecken, Germany. She spent her childhood in Frankfurt am Main. As a school girl, she was fond of telling stories. A teacher encouraged her to write the stories down on paper, suggesting that they would become fiction instead of sounding like lies. She took this advice and published her first story when she was nineteen years old. She attended College St. Carolus and the University of Frankfurt for a short time but became interested in anthropology and began working at the Museum of Ethnology in Frankfurt (1910-1917). It was there she met Wilheim Benary, a psychologist, whom she married in 1917. They settled in Erfurt, living in an old family farm house in the country. While her husband attended to the family business, she raised Great Danes. When World War II interrupted the tranquility of their lives, efforts turned to the needs of survival, and Benary-Isbert began to raise farm animals in order to feed her family.

When the Russians occupied Germany after the war, the Benarys fled, taking refuge on a friend's farm and later sharing an apartment with two other families in a little town near the University of Goettingen. In this apartment, Benary-Isbert wrote Die Archie Noah (The Ark) in 1948. This setting and her experiences there inspired many of her books about post-war Germany, a favorite theme. These books are a testament to the strength and will of people, especially children, to rise above almost impossible odds to build new lives for themselves. She is known for her depictions of humane, realistic characters with a touch of courage and sympathy.

In 1952 the Benarys moved to the United States, settling first in Chicago and then in Santa Barbara. Becoming an American citizen in 1957, Benary-Isbert continued to live and write in this country until her death in 1979. She wrote more than fifteen books, mostly for young adolescents; however, she also wrote books, short stories, and articles for adults. Drawing heavily from her experiences in World War II Germany, she created backdrops to show the triumph of human courage over adversity.

Benary Isbert received first prize in the New York Herald Tribune Spring Book Festival (older) in 1953 and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1968 for The Ark, and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1957 for Blue Mystery. In 1967 the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People recognized her "comprehensive contributions of lasting value to the field of children's literature." She also was awarded the German Order of Merit Officer's Cross for "building bridges among young people of the world."