Maud Hart Lovelace, was born April 25, 1892, in Mankato, Minnesota.Like Betsy, Maud followed her mother around the house at age five asking questions such as “How do you spell ‘going down the street’?” for the stories she had already begun to write. Soon she was writing poems and plays. When Maud was ten, a booklet of her poems was printed; and by age eighteen, she had sold her first short story.
The Hart family left Mankato shortly after Maud’s high school graduation in 1910 and settled in Minneapolis, where Maud attended the University of Minnesota. In 1917, she married Delos W. Lovelace, a newspaper reporter who later became a popular writer of short stories.
The Lovelaces’ daughter, Merian, was born in 1931. Maud would tell her daughter bedtime stories about her childhood, and it was these stories that gave her the idea of writing the Betsy-Tacy books. Maud did not intend to write an entire series when Betsy-Tacy, the first book, was published in 1940, but readers asked for more stories. So Maud took Betsy through high school and beyond college to the “great world” and marriage. The final book in the series, Betsy’s Wedding, was published in 1955.
The Betsy-Tacy books are based very closely on Maud’s own life. “I could make it all up, but in these Betsy-Tacy stories, I love to work from real incidents,” Maud wrote. “The Ray family is a true portrayal of the Hart family. Mr. Ray is like Tom Hart; Mrs. Ray like Stella Palmer Hart; Julia like Kathleen; Margaret like Helen; and Betsy is like me, except that, of course, I glamorized her to make her a proper heroine.” Tacy and Tib are based on Maud’s real-life best friends, Frances “Bick” Kenney and Marjorie “Midge” Gerlach, and Deep Valley is based on Mankato.
In fact, so much in the books was taken from real life that it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between fact and fiction. And through the years, Maud received a great deal of fan mail from readers who were fascinated by the question—what is true, and what is made up?