Nelle Richmond Eberhart

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Nelle Richmond Eberhart (August 28, 1871 – November 15, 1944) was an American librettist, poet, and teacher.

Early life[edit]

Eberhart was born Ellen Loretta McCurdy in Detroit, Michigan, daughter of John Thomas and Cora Amelia Newton McCurdy.[1] Her mother remarried, and at an early age Nelle, as she was known, took her stepfather's surname, Richmond. She was raised in Nebraska, where she taught school as a young woman.[2]


Beginning in 1902,[3] Eberhart collaborated with Charles Wakefield Cadman on many operas and art songs, including "Four American Indian Songs Op. 45" (which included "From the Land of Sky-Blue Water"), and Shanewis (1918), which made Eberhart the first woman librettist to have her work performed at the Metropolitan Opera. Later, she wrote The Willow Tree (music by Cadman), one of the first operas commissioned for radio, certainly the first for American radio.[4]

In addition to her emphasis on Native American themes, Eberhart also showed interest in Asian and Pacific Island themes, writing lyrics for "Sayonara: A Japanese Romance for One or Two Voices, op. 49," and "Idyls of the South Seas" (music by Cadman), and historical drama (A Witch of Salem: An American Opera [1926], music by Cadman). She also wrote several Christian hymns ("The Dawn of Peace Resplendent Breaks," "Give Praise," "O Come and Adore Him"),[5] and general sentimental songs ("I Hear a Thrush at Eve," "Lilacs," "Memories," "The Moon Behind the Cottonwood").[6][7]

Eberhart also published poetry in literary reviews and general interest publications, such as Granite Monthly and Munsey's Magazine.[8][9]

Personal life[edit]

Eberhart's marriage in 1894 to Oscar Eberhart produced a daughter, Constance Richmond Eberhart, who became an opera singer and teacher of voice, and a member of the Chicago Civic Opera and the American Opera Company.[10] Oscar's nephew, Alanson Eberhart, was married to Mignon G. Eberhart, a prolific mystery writer. Mignon dedicated her seventh novel (The White Cockatoo, 1933) to Charles Wakefield Cadman and Nelle Richmond Eberhart.[11]

Nelle Richmond Eberhart died in 1944, in Kansas City, Missouri.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ "Nelle Richmond Eberhart" entry, Durward Howes, American Women (R. Blank Company 1935): p. 258.
  2. ^ "Nelle Richmond Eberhart" entry, IMDb.
  3. ^ "From Railroad Clerk to Grand Opera Composer," American Magazine, 89(1920): 69-70.
  4. ^ Finding Aid, Nelle Richmond Eberhart Papers, 1894-1943, New York Public Library.
  5. ^ Virginia L. Grattan, American Women Songwriters: A Biographical Dictionary (Greenwood Press 1993)
  6. ^ Judith Elaine Carman, William K. Gaeddert, and Rita M. Resch, eds., Art Song in the United States, 1759-1999: An Annotated Bibliography (Scarecrow Press 2001): p. 64.
  7. ^ Victoria Etnier Villamil, A Singer's Guide to the American Art Song: 1870-1980 (Scarecrow Press 2004): p. 76.
  8. ^ Nelle Richmond Eberhardt[sic], "Blanchette," Granite Monthly: A New Hampshire Magazine 24(1898): 36.
  9. ^ Nelle Richmond Eberhart, "The Way of the World," Munsey's Magazine, 68(1919): p. 716.
  10. ^ Alouine Goodjohn Wu, Constance Eberhart: A Musical Career in the Age of Cadman (National Opera Association 1983).
  11. ^ Rick Cypert, America's Agatha Christie: Mignon Good Eberhart, Her Life and Works (Susquehanna University Press 2005): pp. 38-39.
  12. ^ "Nelle Eberhart, A Noted Lyricist; Collaborator of Charles W. Cadman is Dead--Wrote First Opera for Radio," New York Times (November 16, 1944): p. 23.
  13. ^ "Mrs. Eberhart Dies at Home in Missouri: Writer of Lyrics Was Ex-Pittsburgher," Pittsburgh Press (November 16, 1944): p, 8.
  14. ^ Writer of Song Lyrics, Mrs. Eberhart, is Dead," Milwaukee Journal (November 16, 1944): p. 12.

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