Betty Smith, née Elisabeth Wehner (December 15, 1896 - January 17, 1972), was an American author.
|Elisabeth Lillian Wehner|
December 15, 1896|
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Died||January 17, 1972
Shelton, Connecticut, United States
|Pen name||Betty Smith|
|Education||University of Michigan|
|Notable works||A Tree Grows in Brooklyn|
Born on December 15, 1896 Brooklyn, New York to German immigrants, she grew up poor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and attended Girls' High School. These experiences served as the framework to her first novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943).
After marrying George H. E. Smith, a fellow Brooklynite, she moved with him to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he pursued a law degree at the University of Michigan. At this time, she gave birth to two girls and waited until they were in school so she could complete her higher education. Although Smith had not finished high school, the university allowed her to enroll in classes. There she honed her skills in journalism, literature, writing, and drama, winning a prestigious Avery Hopwood Award. She was a student in the classes of Professor Kenneth Thorpe Rowe.
In 1938 she divorced her husband and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There she married Joseph Jones in 1943, the same year in which A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published. She teamed with George Abbott to write the book for the 1951 musical adaptation of the same name. Throughout her life, Smith worked as a dramatist, receiving many awards and fellowships including the Rockefeller Fellowship and the Dramatists Guild Fellowship for her work in drama. Her other novels include Tomorrow Will Be Better (1947), Maggie-Now (1958) and Joy in the Morning (1963).
On January 17, 1972, she died from pneumonia in Shelton, Connecticut, at the age of 75.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)
- Tomorrow Will Be Better (1947)
- Maggie-Now (1958)
- Joy in the Morning (1963)
- 1945: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
(directed by Elia Kazan, starring James Dunn, Joan Blondell, and Dorothy McGuire)
- 1965: Joy in the Morning
(directed by Alex Segal, starring Richard Chamberlain and Yvette Mimieux)
- Betty Smith Papers Inventory, in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn online dissertation by Carol Siri Johnson
- Betty Smith Betty Smith's childhood and ancestry
- SparkNotes summary
- http://web.njit.edu/~cjohnson/tree/bio/wg.htm "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.