You Can Find It in the Archives: Madeleine L’Engle’s College Writing

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

This is the 50th anniversary year of that opening sentence; the 50th anniversary of the publication of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. But before she published her Newbery Award-winning science fantasy book, L’Engle wrote for and edited the Smith College Monthly. She was a member of the Class of 1941, graduating cum laude with a degree in English.

Madeleine L'Engle Camp, Class of 1941, yearbook picture.

Madeleine L’Engle Camp was the first Editor-in-Chief of the new Smith College Monthly, a publication which made its debut on campus in October 1940. The magazine had had an earlier life at Smith from 1893 to 1930 before fading away. L’Engle brought it back with a full editorial, business, and circulation staff.

First issue of the Smith College Monthly, October 1940.

The magazine featured political essays and opinion pieces, book reviews, fiction, and poetry by students and, occasionally, by faculty members. The managing editor at that time was Bettye Naomi Goldstein, Class of 1942 — better known today by her married name, Betty Friedan. We imagine it would have been interesting to hear the conversations at those editorial meetings!

Bettye Naomi Goldstein, Class of 1942, yearbook picture.

Along with editorials, L’Engle published two short stories and a long poem in the pages of the Monthly.

Madeleine L'Engle Camp, "Night at the Fair," Smith College Monthly, December 1940.

Madeleine L'Engle Camp, "From A City Boarding House," Smith College Monthly, February 1941.

Madeleine L'Engle Camp, "The Birthday," Smith College Monthly, April 1941.

Smith awarded L’Engle an honorary degree in 1986. According to the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, L’Engle told students in a discussion on campus in 1997 that honesty is the most important quality to successful storytelling. “If my readers don’t believe it, then it’s not true,” she said.

Here’s the book trailer for Wrinkle in Time‘s 50th anniversary edition to inspire you to read our alumna’s story again or for the very first time.

2 Responses to You Can Find It in the Archives: Madeleine L’Engle’s College Writing

  1. C in DC says:

    Didn’t some of her work show up in the Sophian too? I remember spending an afternoon with a friend browsing the indices to the Smith publications in the reading room trying to find things she had written while at Smith. We found some early drafts of pieces that later showed up in her early novels. It was a fun “treasure” hunt.

    • smitharchives says:

      That does sound like a fun treasure hunt! Yes, Madeleine L’Engle Camp did work for the Smith student newspaper. She was an opinion page assistant and opinion editor with what was then called the Smith College Associated News or SCAN in 1939 and 1940. She also worked on two other student publications before the Monthly: Opinion, which was a small literary magazine, and Tatler, which was a humor magazine. Her other activities included serving as president of the French House and Class Historian. So she certainly was a busy young woman!

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