Biography

Betty MacDonald

Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard, later known world-wide as Betty MacDonald, was born in Boulder, Colorado, on March 26, 1907. Her father Darsie Bard (1878-1920) was a mining engineer, and during Betty’s earliest years he and her mother, Elsie Bard–who used the name Sydney–(1878-1957) moved the family frequently, following his work assessing and later managing mining operations. From Boulder, the family moved to Mexico; then to Placerville, Idaho; to Butte, Montana; and, in 1916, to Seattle, Washington. Betty had an older sister, Mary [Mary Bard Jensen, 1904-1970], a younger brother, Cleve [Sidney Cleveland Bard, 1908-1980], and younger sisters Dede [Dorothea Darsie Bard Goldsmith, 1915-1994] and Alison [Alison Cleveland Bard Sugia Beck Burnett, 1920-2009]. Another sister, Sylvia Remsen Bard (1912-1913), died in infancy.

Betty Bard graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1924, and attended the University of Washington 1924-1925. In 1927, she married Robert Eugene Heskett (1895-1951), with whom she operated an egg ranch in Center, Washington (now part of Chimacum) on the Olympic Peninsula. This misadventure would later be recounted in her 1945 nonfiction best-seller, The Egg and I. The couple had two daughters, Anne [Anne Elizabeth Campbell MacDonald Strunk Evans Canham, b. 1928] and Joan [Joan Sydney MacDonald Keil, 1929-2004]. Betty and Bob Heskett separated in 1930 and were divorced in 1935. Once separated, Betty reclaimed her maiden name.

During the 1930s, Betty Bard lived with her mother, sisters, and daughters in Seattle and worked a variety of jobs before being hired by the National Recovery Administration (NRA) in 1934, and then by the United States Treasury Department in 1936. In 1938, she was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis and entered Firland Sanatorium in Richmond Highlands, Washington. She was discharged in 1939, and hired by the National Youth Administration (NYA). In 1942, she married Donald Chauncy MacDonald (1910-1975). With Anne and Joan, the couple moved to Vashon Island.

In the wake of The Egg and I‘s overwhelming national, then international success, Betty MacDonald published three other works of nonfiction: The Plague and I (1948), about her treatment for tuberculosis; Anybody Can Do Anything (1950), about surviving the Great Depression; and Onions In The Stew (1955), about raising Anne and Joan on Vashon. In 1947, she published the first in what became a perennially popular juvenile series, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic (1949), Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm (1954), Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (1957), and another children’s book, Nancy and Plum (1952) followed.

In 1952, Betty and Don MacDonald purchased a large ranch property in Carmel Valley, California. Betty moved there fulltime in 1955. In 1956, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Betty MacDonald died in Seattle on February 7, 1958.

 

-Paula Becker, March 25, 2016