Helen Palmer Geisel

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Helen Palmer Geisel
Born Helen Marion Palmer
(1899-09-11)September 11, 1899
New York, United States
Died October 23, 1967(1967-10-23) (aged 68)
Fresno, California, United States
Occupation Writer, cartoonist, animator
Nationality American
Genre Children's literature
Notable works I Was Kissed by a Seal at the Zoo
Do You Know What I'm Going to Do Next Saturday?
Why I Built the Boogle House
A Fish Out of Water
Spouse Theodor Seuss Geisel

Helen Marion Palmer Geisel (September 11, 1899 – October 23, 1967) was an American children's author, editor, and philanthropist. She was married to fellow author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, from 1927 until her death. Her best-known books include Do You Know What I'm Going to Do Next Saturday?, I Was Kissed by a Seal at the Zoo, Why I Built the Boogle House, and A Fish Out of Water.

Life[edit]

Helen Marion Palmer was born in New York in 1899 and spent her childhood in Bedford–Stuyvesant, a prosperous Brooklyn neighborhood. As a child, she contracted polio but recovered from it almost completely. Her father, George Howard Palmer, was an ophthalmologist, and died when she was 11. She graduated from Wellesley College with honors in 1920.[1]

She met Ted Geisel, who was five years younger than she, at Oxford University.[2][3] She had a profound influence on his life, starting with her suggestion that he should be an artist rather than an English professor.[4] She later stated, "Ted's notebooks were always filled with these fabulous animals. So I set to work diverting him; here was a man who could draw such pictures; he should be earning a living doing that."[4] They married in 1927 and never had children, as Helen was unable to.[5]

Following World War II, Ted worked in Hollywood on expanding his propaganda films into films for general release. When RKO commissioned him to adapt his film Your Job in Japan, he brought Helen on as a collaborator, and the two shared a writing credit.[6] The finished project, Design for Death, won the 1947 Academy Award for best documentary feature.[6][7]

For about a decade following World War II, Ted Geisel, working to feed a booming children's book market, created a bevy of books. During this period, he relied heavily on the encouragement and editorial input of Helen.[2] In fact, throughout much of his career, he relied on Helen's support.[3]

Illness and suicide[edit]

Geisel committed suicide in 1967 with an overdose (O.D) of barbiturates,[8] after a series of illnesses (including cancer) spanning 13 years.[9] Geisel was also despondent over her husband's burgeoning relationship with Audrey Stone Dimond. Feeling unable to live without him, Helen Geisel wrote in her suicide note:

"Dear Ted, What has happened to us? I don't know. I feel myself in a spiral, going down down down, into a black hole from which there is no escape, no brightness. And loud in my ears from every side I hear, 'failure, failure, failure...' I love you so much ... I am too old and enmeshed in everything you do and are, that I cannot conceive of life without you ... My going will leave quite a rumor but you can say I was overworked and overwrought. Your reputation with your friends and fans will not be harmed ... Sometimes think of the fun we had all thru the years ..."[10]

Ted later described his reaction to her death: "I didn't know whether to kill myself, burn the house down, or just go away and get lost."[10] About Helen's death, Ted's niece Peggy commented: "Whatever Helen did, she did it out of absolute love for Ted. Peggy called Helen's death "her last and greatest gift to him."[10]

Works[edit]

Helen Palmer's best-known book is Do You Know What I'm Going To Do Next Saturday?, published in 1963. This book, along with two others—I Was Kissed by a Seal at the Zoo (1962) and Why I Built the Boogle House (1964)—combined Palmer's stories with photographs by Lynn Fayman. The photographs in I Was Kissed by a Seal at the Zoo were taken at the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, and featured children from the Francis Parker School in San Diego interacting with the zoo's animals and staff. She also expanded the Dr. Seuss short story "Gustav the Goldfish" into the book A Fish Out of Water, which was illustrated by P. D. Eastman.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morgan (1995), p. 57
  2. ^ a b Hulbert, Ann (23 April 1995). "The Man Who Invented the Cat in the Hat". New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Smith, Dinitia (13 February 1997). "The Creatures of a Purist Go Commercial". New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Eric Pace (September 26, 1991). "Dr. Seuss, Modern Mother Goose, Dies at 87". The New York Times (New York City: NYTC). ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ Nel, Philip (2004). Dr. Seuss: American Icon. Continuum Publishing. ISBN 0-8264-1434-6. 
  6. ^ a b Morgan (1995), p. 120-121
  7. ^ Manning, Martin J. (2004). Historical Dictionary of American Propaganda. Greenwood Press. p. 116. 
  8. ^ Wadler, Joyce (November 29, 2000). "PUBLIC LIVES; Mrs. Seuss Hears a Who, and Tells About It". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  9. ^ "About.com page on Theodor Geisel". Marriage.about.com. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  10. ^ a b c Morgan, Judith; Morgan, Neil. Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography. pp. 195–198. ISBN 978-0306807367. 
  11. ^ Zielinski, Stan. "A Story Of Two Fish: Dr. Seuss Out Of Water". Retrieved 21 October 2013. 

Sources[edit]