University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Elisabeth May Ogilvie papers, 1933-2006

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

The collection includes biographical information, manuscripts, interviews, reviews, newsletters, photographs, correspondence, notes, and research materials. Ogilvie’s manuscripts are typewritten, many with her own notations and corrections. Her notes are wide-ranging, and include ideas for stories, character development, historical background, and more. Her research materials include books and newspaper/periodical articles, and serve as a supplement to her notes. Also included is a series of newsletters for Ogilvie readers, a companion book for her fans, a book of recipes from her many novels, and her typewriter.

Biographical/Historical Note

Elisabeth Ogilvie was born in Boston on May 20, 1917, to Frank and Maude Ogilvie. She was raised in Dorchester and Wollaston, Massachusetts, summering on the island of Criehaven in Maine. The family spent nearly every summer in Maine, which would make a strong impression on Elisabeth as she grew up. Her childhood was happy and creative. Even though Ogilvie loved to make up stories, her true passion for writing did not fully emerge until her English classes with Frank Smoyer at North Quincy High School. He encouraged her to write for the school’s literary magazine, The Manet. After her first story was published in the journal, she wrote a new piece every two weeks, and continued to contribute works to The Manet from eighth grade through her senior year.

Ogilvie graduated at the height of the Depression, so a college education was not an option. She was determined, however, to improve herself as a writer, so she enrolled in a “Writing for Publication” course at Harvard University in 1936. Shortly thereafter, her first story was published in a Massachusetts newspaper Sunday supplement. Her instructor, Donald MacCampbell, became a staunch supporter, and offered to be her agent when the course ended. Ogilvie’s stories were published in Woman’s Day, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping.

In 1944, she published her first novel, High Tide at Noon, about a lobstering family who lived on fictional Bennett’s Island. Shortly after she moved to Cushing, Maine, and wintered in a farmhouse – called Tide’s Way – on 33 acres on Gay’s Island where she lived with longtime companion Dorothy Simpson for fifty years. Dorothy and her husband, Guy, were great friends to Ogilvie, and often gave her advice and inspiration for her writing. With the critical and public success of High Tide at Noon, it did not take long for Ogilvie to write the second installment, Storm Tide (1945), which won the New England Press Association Award for Best Novel in 1945 and the Northeast Woman’s Press Association Award in 1946.

The Bennett’s Island series eventually grew to include eight books, the last in the series, The Day Before Winter was published in 1997. Ogilvie wrote 46 adult, young adult, and children’s books. Though most of her novels are set in Maine, the Jennie Glenroy series is set in Scotland, where she traveled extensively throughout her life. Ogilvie also wrote several mystery and suspense novels, including No Evil Angel (1956) and The Devil in Tartan (1980), as well as historical fiction. She became involved with several writers organizations, such as the Authors Guild and Mystery Writers of America, as well as lecturing at schools, libraries, and professional organizations, like Maine Media Women. Ogilvie garnered many fans throughout her long career for her rich descriptions of setting, heartwarming storylines, and great attention to characterization. She died on September 9, 2006.