Lila Acheson Wallace

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Lila Acheson Wallace
Lila Bell Acheson

December 25, 1889
Virden, Manitoba, Canada
DiedMay 8, 1984 (aged 94)
Mount Kisco, New York, United States
EducationWard-Belmont College
OccupationMagazine publisher
Known forCo founding Reader's Digest with her husband
SpouseDewitt Wallace

Lila Bell Wallace (December 25, 1889 – May 8, 1984) was an American magazine publisher and philanthropist. She co-founded Reader's Digest with her husband Dewitt Wallace, publishing the first issue in 1922.

Early life and education[edit]

Born Lila Bell Acheson in Virden, Manitoba, Canada,[1] her father was a Presbyterian minister who brought his family to the United States when she was a child, and she grew up in Marshall, Minnesota, and Lewistown, Illinois, where her father preached. Her brother, Barclay Acheson, was an executive director of the Near East Foundation and served as an editor of Reader's Digest.[2]

In 1917, she graduated from the University of Oregon, located in Eugene, Oregon, taught at schools for two years, and then worked for the Young Women's Christian Association. She also studied at Ward–Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee.[3]


In 1921, she married DeWitt Wallace in Pleasantville, New York.[4] The couple co-founded the Reader's Digest magazine, with the first publication in 1922.[4] For many years, Reader's Digest was the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States.

In her lifetime, she made philanthropic contributions estimated at $60 million. One of her major projects was the establishment of the Metropolitan Opera National Company, the national touring company of the Metropolitan Opera, in 1963.[5] She continued to support the MONC until the Metropolitan Opera decided to disband the organization at the conclusion of the 1966–1967 season.[5]

Death and legacy[edit]

She died from heart failure, age 94, in Mount Kisco, New York.[6] The Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Writers Award was given in her memory from 1990 to 2000.[7]

In 1966, Wallace received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[8] On January 28, 1972, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.[9] In 1992, she was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Arts.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Birth of Lila Bell Acheson". Historica Canada. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  2. ^ "Dr. Barclay Acheson, Editor, Dies at 70; International Reader's Digest Official". The New York Times. 1957-12-06. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2014. Retrieved July 30, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Wallace Foundation.
  4. ^ a b Rol, Charles (2018-08-26). "Lila Bell Acheson Wallace, Co-founder of Reader's Digest". World History. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  5. ^ a b Martin Bernheimer (August 2006). "The Not-So-Grand Tour". Opera News. Vol. 71, no. 2. pp. 40–45.
  6. ^ Staff (May 9, 1984). "Lila Wallace, Who Bestowed Reader's Digest Wealth, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  7. ^ "Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Awards: The Art of the Possible". Wallace Foundation. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  8. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  9. ^ The American Presidency Project
  10. ^ [dead link] "Lifetime Honors – National Medal of Arts" Archived August 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. National Endowment for the Arts.

External links[edit]

Media related to Lila Acheson Wallace at Wikimedia Commons