Cornelia Lynde Meigs, the daughter of Montgomery and Grace Lynde Meigs, was born on December 6, 1884, in Rock Island, Illinois. As a member of a large family, she learned to tell stories by listening to her father and an older sister, then retelling the stories to the only family member younger than she. Most of Meigs's childhood was spent in Keokuk, Iowa, where her father was in charge of engineering projects on the Mississippi River. The family spent the summers in New England, the original home of Meigs's parents' families.
In 1907 Meigs graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and from 1912 to 1913 taught English at St. Katharine's School in Davenport, Iowa. In 1932 she returned to Bryn Mawr to teach, remaining there until 1950. Her career as a scholar culminated with the publication of her Critical History of Children's Literature (1953). From 1942 to 1945, she also worked for the U.S. War Department.
Meigs received a number of awards, beginning with the Drama League Prize in 1915. In 1927 she won the Beacon Hill Bookshelf Prize for The Trade Wind, and in 1938 her short story "Fox and Geese" was the Child Life prize story. Three of her novels—The Windy Hill, Clearing Weather, and Swift Rivers— were named Newbery Honor Books. Two other novels, The Covered Bridge and Call of the Mountain, were selected for Horn Book magazine's Fanfare List. In 1934 Meigs was awarded the Newbery Medal for her biography of Louisa May Alcott, Invincible Louisa. In 1967 she received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Piano University, Texas, and in 1971, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Jane Addams Award.
Meigs owned a Vermont farm, "Green Pastures," and Vermont was the setting for several of her books, including The Covered Bridge and Call of the Mountain. She died on September 10, 1973, in Harford County, Maryland.
Although born in Rock Island, Illinois, on December 6, 1884, Cornelia Lynde Meigs lived most of her life in Keokuk, Iowa. The daughter of an accomplished storyteller, Meigs inherited her father's aptitude for making history come alive. His tales of the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the Barbary pirates sparked Meigs's long-lasting interest in history. Many of her early works are about America's infancy: Master Simon's Garden, The Willow Whistle, Wind in the Chimney, and The Covered Bridge.
Meigs earned a bachelor's degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1907 and later taught English at St. Katharine's boarding school in Davenport, Iowa. While at St. Katharine's she completed and published her first book, The Kingdom of the Winding Road, a collection of fantasy stories. After the death of her father, a government engineer, Meigs persuaded the administration of Bryn Mawr to allow her to teach a writing class. She remained at the university for eighteen years, serving as a professor of English and then a professor emeritus until 1950.
For most of her life, Meigs continued to write for young people and for adults, completing over forty major works before her death on September 10, 1973, in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote plays, such as The Steadfast Princess (1915), which won the Drama League Prize; biographies of strong women, such as Invincible Louisa, which won the Newbery Medal in 1934; and critically acclaimed scholarly pieces, such as A Critical History of Children's Literature (1953). She was presented with the Beacon Hill Bookshelf Prize (1927) for The Trade Wind, the Child Life Award (1938) for "Fox and Geese," and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Jane Addams Award (1971).
As a child Meigs read and reread Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters and Journals (edited by Ednah D. Cheney, 1889), admiring Alcott's courageous spirit. When presented with the prestigious Newbery Medal for Invincible Louisa, Meigs accepted the honor not only for herself but also on behalf of her literary mentor, Louisa May Aleott. It is with this same love and respect for Alcott that Meigs re-creates the life and times of the famous writer in Invincible Louisa.