Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle
"It takes too much energy to be against something unless it's really important. "
- Madeleine L’Engle, 2004

Induction Category:
Writers & Journalists

Born: 1918

Died: 2007

Inducted: 1996

Town: Goshen

One of the most respected and well-loved children’s authors in America, Madeleine L’Engle was a long-time resident of Goshen, Conn. In 1963, she received the Newberry Medal for her most famous novel, A Wrinkle in Time. The Crosswicks Foundation, which she started with her husband, continues to make grants to support arts and community-based organizations in New York and northwestern Connecticut.

Madeleine L’Engle Camp was born in New York City in 1918.  Her father, Charles Wadsworth Camp, was a critic, writer and foreign correspondent; her mother, also named Madeleine L’Engle, was a gifted pianist. After graduating from a boarding school in Charleston, S.C., L’Engle graduated from Smith College with honors in 1941. Upon graduation, she moved to Greenwich Village to act, ultimately meeting her husband, Hugh Franklin, while the two were performing in Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. They married in 1946 and celebrated the arrival of their first daughter in 1947. In 1952, with a second child on the way, the family moved to Crosswicks, a 200-year-old farmhouse in Goshen, Conn., where they purchased a local General Store and settled into rural life. Her first novel, The Small Rain, had been published in 1945, but it was during her years at Crosswicks that she experienced the communal life that would inspire much of her later work, including The Austin Family Series, beginning with Meet the Austins, one of the American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Books of 1960.

It was with her next novel, A Wrinkle in Time, published in 1962, that L’Engle’s career as a writer really took off.  The book quickly became a popular and critical success, winning both the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and the Newberry Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature. Two companion novels completed the Time Trilogy, A Wind in the Door (1973) and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978). The series was heralded for its creative blend of fairy tale, science fiction, good old-fashioned story-telling and serious themes of family love, spirituality and moral responsibility. In the 1970s, even as she continued to write children’s books, L’Engle began a series of autobiographical works that have come to be known as the “Crosswicks Journals,” named after the family’s Connecticut farmhouse. The final volume, Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (1988), is a heart-wrenching account of the devastating illness and subsequent death of her husband of 40 years, remembered most today for his portrayal of Dr. Charles Taylor on the TV soap opera All My Children.

L’Engle continued to write and receive honors for her work until the end of her life, including two National Religious Book Awards, numerous Newberry honors and nominations and several lifetime achievement awards. In the 1980s, she was ranked by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the five-to-ten most popular and best-selling children’s authors in the country. She served as the librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and received many honorary doctorates from colleges and universities including Trinity College in Hartford and St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford. L’Engle died of natural causes in September 2007 in Litchfield, Conn. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to maintain her website and encourage new generations of readers to discover her works.

During This Time
1946 - 1965: Women’s Activism in Conservative Times