Louise Seaman Bechtel

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Louise Seaman Bechtel
Born Louise Seaman
June 29, 1894[1]
Brooklyn, New York
Died April 12, 1985
Mount Kisco, New York
Education Vassar College
Occupation Editor, critic, author, teacher
Spouse(s) Edwin DeTurck Bechtel

Louise Seaman Bechtel (1894 – April 12, 1985)[2] was an American editor, critic, author, and teacher of young children.


Bechtel graduated from Vassar College in 1915 and was the first person to head a juvenile book department established by an American publishing house.[3] During her fifteen-year tenure as managing editor at the Macmillan Company (1919–1934), she oversaw production of more than 600 new books, a milestone in the growth and development of American literature for children.

Bechtel resigned from Macmillan Company in 1934 because of a broken hip, but continued her involvement in the field of children's literature. Between 1949 and 1956, she was editor of the "Books for Young People" section of the New York Herald Tribune.

Three of the books she published, The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly in 1929, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field in 1930, and The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth in 1931, were awarded the Newbery Medal. As an author, Bechtel's best-known books are The Brave Bantam[4] in 1946, and Mr. Peck's Pets[5] in 1947.

During her long career, Bechtel acquired an incomparable collection of children's books. Later donated to Vassar College and the University of Florida in Gainesville), it exceeded 3,500 volumes, among them rare folk tales, Asian and African legends, Greek mythology, Aesop's fables, tales from Shakespeare, and early twentieth century children's book illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Kate Greenaway, and Boris Artzybasheff.

Personal life and death[edit]

Bechtel married to Edwin DeTurck Bechtel, an attorney, art collector, and authority about and scholar of rose culture.

Louise Seaman Bechtel is buried at Saint Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard in Bedford, New York.

The Bechtel Prize[edit]

The Bechtel Prize, named for her, is endowed by the Cerimon Fund and administered by Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York. The Prize is awarded annually in recognition of an exemplary article or essay related to creative writing education, literary studies, and/or the profession of writing.

The winning essay appears in Teachers & Writers magazine, and the author receives a $1,000 honorarium.[6] Possible topics for Bechtel Prize submissions include contemporary issues in classroom teaching, innovative approaches to teaching literary forms and genres, and the intersection between literature and imaginative writing.

Bechtel Prize winners and finalists[edit]

winner in bold.





  • Anna Sopko for “Writing Standards
  • Sarah J. Gardner for “Three Writers, Imagination, and Meaning”
  • Jeff Kass for “In Search of a True Word”
  • Cheryl Pallant for “Gifting Poems: Getting Students to Read Poetry Closely”
  • Barbara Roether for “Pride and Prejudice on the Barbary Coast”



  • Emily Raboteau for “Jazz Poetry
  • Marcia Chamberlain for “When You Listen Deeply”
  • Garth Greenwell for “Reading with the Voice”

2010 (judged by Phillip Lopate)[edit]

2011 (judged by Patricia Hampl)[edit]

  • Janet L. Bland for "The Possum"
  • Julia Shipley for "Writing from the Ox House"
  • Jane Elkington Wohl for "On Teaching Othello Again"

2012 (judged by Jo Ann Beard)[edit]

2013 (judged by Susan Orlean)[edit]


2017 (judged by Garth Greenwell)[edit]

The Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship at the Baldwin Library[edit]

The Bechtel Fellowship, awarded by the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, awards a mid-career librarian, with a minimum of eight years experience working with children, $4,000 to spend a month reading and studying at the Baldwin library at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.


  1. ^ Eddy, Jacalyn (2006). Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children’s Book Publishing, 1919-1939 (PDF). Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-299-21794-5. Retrieved 7 August 2016. 
  2. ^ "Louise Seaman Bechtel Dies; Authority on Juvenile Books," New York Times (Apr. 13, 1985).
  3. ^ Archives and Special Collections Library of Vassar College.
  4. ^ The Brave Bantam, OpenLibrary.org.
  5. ^ Mr. Peck's Pets, OpenLibrary.org.
  6. ^ "Bechtel Prize," Poets & Writers website. Accessed May 29, 2014.

External links[edit]