Skinner, Constance Lindsay

▪ American writer and historian
in full  Constance Annie Lindsay Skinner 
born Dec. 7, 1877, Quesnel, B.C., Can.
died March 27, 1939, New York, N.Y., U.S.

      Canadian-born American writer, critic, editor, and historian, remembered for her contributions to popular historical series on American and Canadian frontiers and rivers.

      Skinner was the daughter of an agent for the Hudson's Bay Company, and she grew up at a trading post on the Peace River in British Columbia. Her family moved to Vancouver when she was 14 years old, and when she was 16 she moved for her health to the home of an aunt in California. She had already had some stories published in various newspapers, and in California she began contributing music and theatrical criticism to the San Francisco Examiner and the Los Angeles Times. Her first play, David, was produced at the Forest Theatre in Carmel, California, in 1910.

      Skinner eventually settled in New York City, where she contributed book reviews to the Herald Tribune and published articles and poems regularly in the Bookman, the North American Review, Poetry, and other magazines. Good Morning, Rosamund!, her second play, was produced in New York in 1917.

      Invited to contribute two volumes to the Yale University Chronicles of America series, Skinner produced Pioneers of the Old Southwest (1919) and Adventurers of Oregon (1920). Adventures in the Wilderness (1925), cowritten with Clark Wissler and William C.H. Wood, was published in the Yale Pageant of America series. Turning to fiction, Skinner wrote a series of adventure tales for children, all based on frontier life. She also wrote a novel for adults, Red Willows (1929); Songs of the Coast Dwellers (1930), a highly praised collection of poems inspired by the legends of the Squamish Indians of British Columbia; and Beaver, Kings and Cabins (1933), a history of the fur trade.

      Skinner's histories, while vivid and highly readable, occasionally sacrificed scholarship, but they powerfully evoked the landscapes they depicted. In 1935 the publishing firm of Farrar & Rinehart accepted her proposal that she edit a historical series based on the major rivers of America. The first volume in the series, Robert P. Tristram Coffin's Kennebec: Cradle of Americans, appeared in 1937. The series eventually extended to more than 40 volumes, but Skinner died before completing her work as general editor of the series.

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Universalium. 2010.

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