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Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879–1958)

Author of Understood Betsy

55+ Works 5,053 Members 75 Reviews 6 Favorited
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About the Author

Author Dorothy Canfield Fisher was born in Lawrence, Kansas on February 17, 1879. She received a Ph.D. in romance languages from Columbia University in 1904. She wrote novels, short stories, children's books, educational works, and memoirs. In 1912, she met Maria Montessori in Italy and was so show more impressed by the educator's theories that she wrote A Montessori Mother, The Montessori Manual, and Mothers and Children. She worked for many environmental, children's and education causes in the 1940s and 1950s. She died in Arlington, Vermont on November 9, 1958. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Disambiguation Notice:

This author's works of fiction were under her birth name, Dorothy Canfield; works of non-fiction were published under her married name, Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

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

Works by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Understood Betsy (1916) — Author — 2,889 copies
The Home-Maker (1924) 417 copies
The Brimming Cup (1919) 131 copies
Seasoned Timber (1939) 121 copies
The Deepening Stream (1930) 82 copies
Her Son's Wife (1926) 71 copies
The Bent Twig (1915) 69 copies
Rough-Hewn (1922) 38 copies
Home Fires in France (1918) 29 copies
The Squirrel-Cage (1912) 19 copies
Hillsboro People (2011) 16 copies
Montessori for Parents (1965) 14 copies
Bonfire (1933) 14 copies
Raw Material (1923) 12 copies
The Day of Glory (1919) 8 copies
Fables for Parents (1937) 7 copies
Four-Square (1947) 6 copies
Made-to-Order Stories (1921) — Author — 5 copies
Basque People (1931) 5 copies
Mothers and Children (1914) — Author — 4 copies
American Portraits (1946) — Author — 3 copies
The Real Motive (1916) — Author — 2 copies
Self-Reliance (1916) — Author — 2 copies
Our Young Folks (1943) — Author — 2 copies
Aces 1 copy
Montessori Mother (2014) 1 copy

Associated Works

Native Son (1940) — Introduction, some editions — 7,548 copies
Black Boy (1945) — Introduction, some editions — 5,063 copies
Seven Gothic Tales (1934) — Introduction, some editions — 2,350 copies
Norman Rockwell, Illustrator (1946) — Preface — 609 copies
A Treasury of Short Stories (1947) — Contributor — 286 copies
Twenty Grand Short Stories (1967) — Introduction; Contributor — 155 copies
Prudence Crandall (1955) — Introduction, some editions — 125 copies
The Persephone Book of Short Stories (2012) — Contributor — 116 copies
The Friendly Story Caravan (1949) — Introduction, some editions — 92 copies
Women and Fiction: Volume 2 (1978) — Contributor — 72 copies
Bedside Book of Famous American Stories (1936) — Contributor — 66 copies
The Vintage Book of American Women Writers (2011) — Contributor — 55 copies
Reading for Pleasure (1957) — Contributor — 49 copies
O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1943 (1943) — Contributor — 48 copies
The Experience of the American Woman (1978) — Contributor — 47 copies
Friendly Anecdotes (1950) — Introduction, some editions — 44 copies
The Seas of God: Great Stories of the Human Spirit (1944) — Contributor — 25 copies
The Second Persephone Book of Short Stories (2019) — Contributor — 23 copies
Open the Door (1965) — Contributor — 21 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1944 (1944) — Contributor — 18 copies
American Heritage Magazine Vol 08 No 5 1957 August (1957) — Contributor — 13 copies
Meditations for women (1946) — Introduction — 12 copies
Let me show you Vermont (1937) — Introduction — 11 copies
The best of the Best American short stories, 1915-1950 (1975) — Contributor — 10 copies
Sturdy Oak: A Composite Novel (1917) — Contributor — 8 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1947 (1947) — Contributor — 7 copies
Time to Be Young: Great Stories of the Growing Years (1945) — Contributor — 7 copies
Homo faber; work through the ages (1958) — Translator, some editions — 6 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1948 (1948) — Contributor — 5 copies
The Word Lives On: A Treasury of Spiritual Fiction (1951) — Contributor — 4 copies
Americans All: Stories of American Life To-Day (1971) — Contributor — 3 copies
Uncle Lisha's Shop and A Danvis Pioneer — Introduction — 2 copies
Aces: A Collection of Short Stories (1924) — Contributor — 1 copy
My Friend Flicka, The Apprentice, Old Ben — Contributor — 1 copy
Dynamo Farm: A 4-H Story — Foreword — 1 copy
Stories for girls — Contributor — 1 copy


20th century (287) African American (453) African American literature (99) African Americans (76) African-American Literature (94) America (71) American (182) American history (88) American literature (254) anthology (114) art (126) autobiography (211) biography (216) Chicago (155) children (70) children's (95) classic (245) classics (214) Danish (67) Danish literature (68) fiction (2,011) gothic (102) historical fiction (113) history (173) Landmark (83) literature (389) memoir (194) murder (88) non-fiction (264) novel (284) own (77) Persephone (81) race (226) racism (229) read (166) short stories (501) to-read (794) unread (95) USA (115) Vermont (78)

Common Knowledge

Legal name
Canfield, Dorothea Frances
Other names
Canfield, Dorothy (pen name)
Date of death
USA (birth)
Lawrence, Kansas, USA
Place of death
Arlington, Vermont, USA
Places of residence
Lawrence, Kansas, USA
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Paris, France
Arlington, Vermont, USA
Ohio State University (BA ∙ 1899)
The Sorbonne, Paris, France
Columbia University (PhD ∙ 1904)
educational reformer
children's book author
social activist
Cather, Willa (friend)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature, 1931)
Book-of-the-Month Club
Awards and honors
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Short biography
Dorothea Frances Canfield was born in Lawrence, Kansas, to James Hulme Canfield, an educator, and Flavia Camp, an artist and writer. Her father became a professor at the University of Kansas and later chancellor of the University of Nebraska and president of Ohio State University. As a child, she spent much time visiting her mother's family in Vermont, which served as the setting for many of her books. At age 10, she spent a year in Paris while her mother studied art, and became fluent in French. She graduated from Ohio State University and went on to study Romance languages at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Columbia University, where she earned a doctoral degree. She co-wrote the textbook English Rhetoric and Composition (1906). In 1907, she married John Redwood Fisher, with whom she had two children. In 1911, after visiting the "children's houses" in Rome established by Maria Montessori, she endeavored to introduce the Montessori method in the USA. She translated Montessori's books into English. She and their children accompanied her husband to France when he volunteered to work with the U.S. Army ambulance service and as an officer with the Medical Corps during World War I. She worked to establish a Braille press for blinded war veterans and the Bidart home for refugee children. In 1918, she published a memoir, Home Fires in France. She also wrote 22 novels, plus short stories, educational works, and literary criticism. She was renowned for her support of women's rights and racial equality. See also The Lady from Vermont: Dorothy Canfield Fisher's Life and World by Elizabeth Yates (1971) and Dorothy Canfield Fisher – A Biography by Ida H. Washington (1982).
Disambiguation notice
This author's works of fiction were under her birth name, Dorothy Canfield; works of non-fiction were published under her married name, Dorothy Canfield Fisher.



Virago Monthly Reads: Feb 2018: Dorothy Canfield Fisher in Virago Modern Classics (March 2018)
old kids book, city girl on a farm in Name that Book (October 2012)


betty_s | 18 other reviews | Oct 29, 2023 |
Dorothy Canfield Fisher turned gender roles upside down in this novel about a dysfunctional family, set in small-town America in the 1920s. Eva Knapp is the epitome of the devoted housewife of the time. While she loves her husband and children, she is driven by a sense of duty to keep the household running like clockwork, and has little time for expressions of affection. She is plagued by eczema, and nothing the doctor prescribes seems to improve it. Her husband, Lester, is a forlorn bookkeeper with a going-nowhere job in the local department store. He's miserable with indigestion whenever he eats anything. Nothing the doctor prescribes seems to improve it. Their oldest child, Helen, is a mouse...always trying and failing to meet her mother's expectations, nervous and frail. Eleven-year-old Henry has inherited his father's weak stomach, and is often ill. All manner of special preparations and diets have been prescribed, but nothing seems to improve his condition either. And Stephen, the toddler...well, he's simply unmanageable. Prone to temper tantrums, to hiding under the stairs clutching his beloved Teddy Bear, and always, always tracking dirt into his mother's clean house. His mother faintly hopes he will one day grow out of it. When Lester fails to get a promotion, it appears that near-poverty is to be the family's permanent condition. But then a freak accident (or an opportunity seized to escape it all) lands Lester on his back...crippled and confined to a wheelchair. Out of necessity Eva seeks a job, and finds one in the ladies' wear department of the store where Lester had been employed. Lester and the children set about learning to keep house in her stead. Subtle changes begin to set in. Lester and Helen find they can quite well manage meals with the help of "cookery" books. Stephen has fewer tantrums, and is seen smiling at his father. Eva takes satisfaction in turning her organizational skills to tasks more suited to her nature. The family spends evenings together, sharing stories of their days, and playing whist. Some dust gathers in corners, but Eva's eczema disappears, and Henry becomes a boy who eats store-bought cookies without dire consequences. Everyone is obviously healthier and happier with the new arrangement. It's all cleverly laid out, from multiple perspectives, including the childrens', a nosy neighbor's, and the department store owner's. My only quibble is that there comes a day when it appears that Lester may "get well"...his spinal injury has healed to the point where he may actually walk again, and no one knows how to handle this. God forbid they carry on with what's working so well for them...what would people SAY? And not even the adults can discuss this honestly with one another. The ending felt a bit contrived, and at the same time underdone. Still well worth reading for an early take on role reversal, and understanding what it takes to make a happy life.… (more)
laytonwoman3rd | 18 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
Reason read: AAC
I enjoyed discovering this author who wrote such charming stories. This one is a middle school reader and probably no longer fits our times but the points it makes about raising children to be responsible and caring children and a bit about education makes it still a good read even today.
Kristelh | 29 other reviews | Oct 13, 2023 |
Reason read: American author challenge, October 2023
This book published in 1924, set in small town America grapples with finding your place in the world. By an act of providence a family does just that.

I enjoyed the story and while it was unknown to me, I was able to find a copy and I felt it was still able to be appreciated though it explored the traditional family roles of working father, house keeping women, and dutiful children.

The traditional family no longer exists. Men and women are free to work at what ever they desire. It is still true that it is hard for some to find that happy place. I liked the ending but also felt it is questionable ending that promotes living a lie to hold on to happiness.… (more)
Kristelh | 18 other reviews | Oct 9, 2023 |



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