Catherine Drinker Bowen


Biography of Catherine Drinker Bowen

Catherine Drinker Bowen (January 1, 1897 in Haverford, PA – November 1, 1973 in Haverford) an American writer best known for her biographies. She won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1958.

Bowen was born Catherine Drinker on the Haverford College campus on January 1, 1897, to a prominent Quaker family. She was an accomplished violinist who studied for a musical career at the Peabody Institute and the Juilliard School of Music, but ultimately decided to become a writer. She had no formal writing education and no academic career, but became a bestselling American biographer and writer despite criticism from academics. Her earliest biographies were about musicians. Bowen did all her own research, without hiring research assistants, and sometimes took the controversial step of interviewing subjects without taking notes.

In 1958 she won the U.S. National Book Award for Nonfiction for The Lion and the Throne: The Life and Times of Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), a biography of the prominent lawyer of Elizabethan England. In addition, Ms. Bowen received the 1957 Philadelphia Award and the 1962 Women's National Book Association award. Her last book, Family Portrait, received critical acclaim, and was a Literary Guild selection. During her lifetime, she was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Philadelphia Award. At the time of her death in 1973, she was working on a biography of Benjamin Franklin, which was published posthumously.

She is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

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