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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?496420">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Betty Smith (1) [1896–1972]

This page covers the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

For other authors named Betty Smith, see the disambiguation page.

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Short biography
Betty Smith was born Elizabeth (or Elisabeth) Wehner in Brooklyn, New York, to parents who were German immigrants. She attended school until age 14, when she was obliged to go to work to help support the family. She worked at a succession of jobs, including making tissue flowers at a factory and at a press clipping bureau. In 1919, she married George Smith, a fellow German-American, and moved with him to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he went to law school at the University of Michigan. The couple had two children and Betty waited until they were in school to complete her higher education. Although she had not finished high school, in 1927 she was permitted to enroll in classes, and studied journalism, literature, writing, and drama.
She attended the Yale University School of Drama from 1931 to 1934, and had two one-act plays produced in 1932. In 1938, she and her first husband divorced, and she moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She remarried to Joseph Jones, a newspaper columnist, in 1943, the same year in which she published A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, her highly autobiographical novel. It was a runaway bestseller. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was adapted into a famous 1945 film and several television versions, and has proven to be her most enduring work. She went on to become a well-known playwright, receiving many awards and fellowships. Her other novels include Tomorrow Will Be Better (1947), Maggie-Now (1958) and Joy in the Morning (1963).

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