Nebraska Center for Writers

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MARION MARSH BROWN was born Marion Elizabeth Marsh on July 22, 1908, at the farm home of George L and Annie I Kennedy, her uncle and aunt, about five miles northwest of Brownville, Nebraska. Her parents were Cassius H and Jenevie H Marsh. Her father was an early-day newspaperman in Brownville. Her mother eventually became Dean of Women at Peru State College, following Cassius' death in 1924.
Somewhat of a child prodigy, Marion attended a one-room country school within a quarter-mile of her home. She passed the eighth-grade county-wide examinations when she was only eleven years old, graduated from high school when she was fourteen, and began attending Peru State College in 1923 at the age of fifteen. She graduated from PSC in 1927, with an AB in English and began teaching English and Latin in Steele City, Nebraska, in the fall of 1927.
She continued her high school teaching career in such Nebraska towns as Auburn, Curtis, and Franklin, until the fall of 1934, when she returned to her alma mater as an assistant professor of English and advisor to the college newspaper. During the time before she returned, she also completed a masters in English from the University of Nebraska — Lincoln and wrote her thesis on Willa Cather.
After marrying Gilbert S Brown, an Omaha attorney, on June 11, 1937, Marion resigned her position at PSC to join her husband in Omaha. Following the birth of their son, Paul, in 1940, Marion did not return to teaching full-time until 1954, when she joined the faculty of the University of Omaha, where she taught until 1968.
She was just ten years old when she won a writing contest sponsored by the Omaha Bee newspaper and had a story published for the first time. She continued writing throughout her school years and the years of her teaching, turning to producing stories for children's publications, somewhat of a companion to her son's development, when Paul was young.
However, her plan to write for younger people also developed during her first years of teaching. She realized that many books existed that satisfied the needs of high school students but that few good books were available for junior high students. Following a suggestion by her husband, Gilbert, that Nathan Hale, the noted Revolutionary War hero, had been too long neglected by historians, she wrote her first book for young people, Young Nathan, which was published in 1949. Although many of her books are for younger readers, some are for adults, and she often said she wrote for "young people from the ages of nine to 90."
From 1949 on, she averaged about one book every two years until the early 1990s. Other books in her first years were similar to Young Nathan in that they chronicled the lives of famous American patriots. Later ones, including biographies, fiction, and fictionalized biographies, reflected Marion's Nebraska heritage and her interest in Nebraska's people, including American Indians. She also managed to write more than 200 published short stories and newspaper and magazine articles on a variety of subjects.
Because of her accomplishments, Marion Marsh Brown received many awards, including the Sower Award from the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Mari Sandoz Award from the Nebraska Library Association. In the late 1950s, she was also recognized by the Nebraska Council of Teachers of English as one of Nebraska's ten most important writers, a fitting tribute to one who twice received The Junior Literary Guild Award and spent her entire writing and teaching career in Nebraska. — Dan Holtz, Peru State College

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Nebraska Center for Writers