Bessie Anderson Stanley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Bessie Anderson Stanley (born Caroline Elizabeth Anderson, March 25, 1879 – October 2, 1952)[1] was an American writer, the author of the poem Success (What is success? or What Constitutes Success?), which is often incorrectly attributed[2] to Ralph Waldo Emerson[3][4][5] or Robert Louis Stevenson.[6]

She was born in Newton, Iowa, and married Arthur Jehu Stanley in 1900, living thereafter in Lincoln, Kansas.[1] Her poem was written in 1904 for a contest held in Brown Book Magazine,[7] by George Livingston Richards Co. of Boston, Massachusetts[3] Mrs. Stanley submitted the words in the form of an essay, rather than as a poem. The competition was to answer the question "What is success?" in 100 words or less. Mrs. Stanley won the first prize of $250.[8]

Written in verse form, it reads:

He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

The poem was in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations in the 1930s or 1940s but was mysteriously removed in the 1960s.[7] It was again included in the seventeenth edition. However, it does appear in a 1911 book, More Heart Throbs, volume 2, on pages 1–2.[9]

Bessie Anderson Stanley died in 1952, aged 73. The verse is inscribed on her gravestone in Lincoln Cemetery, Kansas.[1]

Ann Landers (and her sister Abby) are also said to have misattributed the poem to Emerson and her concession to a public correction is in The Ann Landers Encyclopedia.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Caroline Elizabeth "Bessie" Anderson Stanley", Retrieved 26 February 2016
  2. ^ Such as in this memorial: Max Kreger, a memorial, Sandusky District Library, Sandusky, Michigan
  3. ^ a b "What Constitutes Success": A $250 Prize Story by a Lincoln Woman Lincoln Sentinel, November 30, 1905 (archived by Bill and Diana Sowers on Lincoln County, Kansas Genealogy & History website)
  4. ^ In Search of Success, extensive research by Dirk H. Kelder (personal website)
  5. ^ Success Quote - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jone Johnson Lewis on "Transcendentalists" website
  6. ^ Reader's Digest Admits Mistake, Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, November 5, 1953 (archived by Bill and Diana Sowers on Lincoln County, Kansas Genealogy & History website)
  7. ^ a b c The Truth behind the Poem "Success" (email exchange between Robin Olson and Bethanne Larson, Stanley's great-granddaughter, on "Robin's Web" website)
  8. ^ The winning paid off the mortgage on her house. "Bessie Stanley's Famous Poem"
  9. ^ Grosset & Dunlap of New York, ©1911 by Chapple Publishing Company Ltd. of Boston, MA (from Success: Finding a Gem among the Litter in the Literature, Chuck Anastasia, Coolspark blog, February 24, 2007)

External links[edit]