This Goodly Land

Emma Gelders Sterne (May 13, 1894–August 29, 1971)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Biographical Information

Emma Gelders Sterne was born and grew up in Birmingham, Ala. She loved books as a child and wrote plays for her friends to perform. Sterne was an editor of the student literary magazine in high school and also at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She graduated from Smith with an AB degree in 1916 and returned briefly to Birmingham where she campaigned for women's suffrage and started a school for delinquent children. Sterne was married in 1917 to a Birmingham lawyer. The following year, shortly after the birth of her first child, the family moved to New York City. After her second child was born, they moved again, first to Pelham, N.Y., later to Wilton, Conn. Sterne continued her writing and sold her first story in 1923. She took classes at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research throughout the 1920s.

Sterne’s first children’s book, White Swallow, was published in 1927. After this, she published steadily until the onset of World War II. Sterne spent the war years in Cambridge, Mass., writing government pamphlets. She also wrote and published two books during this time. After the war, Sterne returned to Connecticut where she taught at the Thomas School in Rowayton for five years. She then became an editor for a series of historical novels for children. She also continued to write and publish her own books. In the mid-1950s, Sterne and her husband moved to San Jose, Calif., where Sterne worked briefly as an editor. She began writing biographies of social activists including notable black Americans. She also began collaborating with her younger daughter Barbara Lindsay. Among the books they produced was the Kathy Martin series about a young nurse. Sterne died in San Jose in 1971.

Interests and Themes

Emma Gelders Sterne wrote biography and historical novels for children and young adults and a historical novel for adults. Under pen names, she wrote picture books and co-wrote a young adult series. No Surrender, Amarantha Gay, M.D., and The Calico Ball are set in historic Birmingham, and Some Plant Olive Trees is set in the French colony that became Demopolis, Ala.

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Reference Book Chapters and Encyclopedia Entries

  • "Sterne, Emma Gelders 1894-1971 (Emily Broun, Josephine James [Joint pseudonym])"; Something About the Author. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale Research, . 205.

Reference Web Sites

Location of Papers

  • University of Oregon

Last updated on Oct 02, 2009.

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