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Emma Gelders Sterne

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Name  Emma Sterne
Role  Author
Education  Smith College

Emma Gelders Sterne neverpediacomwikiimagesthumbaa81970EmmaGeld
Died  1971, San Jose, California, United States
Books  The Story of the Amistad, The Slave Ship, The Long Black Schooner, How Rabbit Stole Fire, European Summer

Emma Gelders Sterne (1894–1971) was an American author of children's books, with a historical and literary focus.


Sterne, of German-Jewish background, was born in Birmingham, Alabama on May 13, 1894, to Louis Gelders, a restaurateur, and Blanche Loeb. She grew up on nearby Red Mountain. She wrote for both her high school and college literary magazines, and graduated from Smith College in 1916. Back in Birmingham, she got involved in the women's suffrage movement, started a school for delinquent children, and became a newspaper columnist focusing on "women's issues".

Her eulogy stated that Sterne said when she was growing up she had never seen or heard "an educated color person. She had never even heard the name of a black man or woman who had done anything notable." In 1913, during her freshman year of college, she attended a speech by W.E.B. Du Bois. Hearing him speak marked a turning point in her life. In 1917, she married Roy M. Sterne, a lawyer. They had two daughters, Ann and Barbara, and moved to New York. She sold her first story in May 1923, and quickly produced two book for the popular All About series. She studied writing at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. She joined the ACLU, the NAACP, and the Democratic party, and identified herself as an atheist, raising concerns among her family and friends that she had become a Communist. Her brother began to get involved with politics, which she didn't agree with at first, but soon developed similar views, describing herself as a "left-liberal New Dealer". She joined the Communist Party in 1950 and began working with the Congress of Racial Equality.

She continued writing for the rest of her life, focusing on history and children's literature, which she managed to combine in her historical adaptations for children, such as the legends of King Arthur, the biography Amarantha Gay, M.D., or Long Black Schooner: The Voyage of the Amistad. Topics related to social justice, such as Native American history and slavery, were recurring themes in her 44 books. Many of the books she cared the most about were written with the civil rights movement in mind. She was a school teacher, an elementary textbook editor, and then a children's book editor in the 1940s.

In 1954 and 1955 she published two picture books for small children, which were retellings of American Indian legends, under the pseudonym Emily Broun. From 1959 to 1966, she and her younger daughter Barbara Lindsay wrote the Kathy Martin series (about a nurse and amateur sleuth) of young adult novels, published under the pseudonym Josephine James.

She died in San Jose, California on August 29, 1971.


Emma Gelders Sterne Wikipedia

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