Jean Lee Latham was born on April 19, 1902, in Buckhannon, West Virginia. After earning degrees at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Ithaca College, Latham went on to complete a master's degree in 1930 at Cornell University, where her primary interests were writing and producing plays. During the early 1930s, she was editor-in-chief of the Dramatic Publishing Company in Chicago, but she also wrote many original plays and radio dramas in this decade, some published under her own name and some under the pen names Julian Lee and Janice Gard. During World War II Latham worked for the Army Signal Corps in various capacities. After the war, she moved to Florida, where she still makes her home, and began writing biographies for young adults.
Her better known junior biographical subjects include Eli Whitney, Samuel F. B. Morse, Sam Houston, David Glasgow Farragut, Rachel Carson, and Elizabeth Blackwell. Her biography of Nathaniel Bowditch, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, won the Newbery Award in 1956. Latham's interest in the theater, combined with her ability to do excellent historical research, results in dramatic biographical novels of significant people who have helped shape the contemporary world. In addition to her writings for young adults, she has written picture- storybooks, some with Bee Lewi, and retold a number of fairy tales that she has illustrated and published individually. Several of these tales have been translated into Spanish. She has...
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