Helen Elswyth Thane Ricker was born in Burlington, Iowa. She changed her name to Elswyth Thane in 1918 when the family moved to New York City. She began working as a freelance writer in 1925, and wrote for newspapers and some Hollywood films. Her first published book was Riders of the Wind (1926), which she dedicated to her friend William Beebe, a much older naturalist and explorer. In 1927, the couple were married on a yacht off Oyster Bay, New York; guests included Edith Kermit Roosevelt, wife of the former president. Elswyth Thane became famous for her "Williamsburg" series of historical novels. The books depict several generations of two families, from the American Revolutionary War up to World War II. Another of her novels, The Tudor Wench, about Queen Elizabeth I of England, was made into a play. After William Beebe died in 1962, Elswyth lived on the couple's farm in Wilmington, Vermont. Her last work, Fighting Quaker: Nathaniel Greene, was published in 1972.