Margaret Wise Brown (May 23, 1910 – November 13, 1952) was a prolific American writer of children's books, including the picture books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, both illustrated by Clement Hurd.
The middle child of three whose parents suffered from an unhappy marriage, Brown was born in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, granddaughter of Benjamin Gratz Brown. In 1923 she attended boarding school in Switzerland, while her parents were living in Canterbury. She began attending Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1926, where she did well in athletics. After graduation in 1928, Brown went on to Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia.
Following her graduation with a B.A. in English from Hollins in 1932 Brown worked as a teacher and also studied art. While working at the Bank Street Experimental School in New York City she started writing books for children. Her first was When the Wind Blew, published in 1937 by Harper & Brothers.
Brown went on to develop her Here and Now stories, and later the Noisy Book series while employed as an editor at William R. Scott.[when?] From 1944 to 1946, Doubleday published three picture books written by Brown under the pseudonym Golden MacDonald and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. (Weisgard was a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal in 1946, and he won the 1947 Medal, for Little Lost Lamb and The Little Island. Two more of their collaborations appeared in 1953 and 1956, after Brown's death.) The Little Fur Family, illustrated by Garth Williams, was published in 1946. Early in the 1950s she wrote several books for the Little Golden Books series, including The Color Kittens, Mister Dog, and Scuppers The Sailor Dog.
While at Hollins she was briefly engaged. She dated, for some time, an unknown "good, quiet man from Virginia", had a long running affair with William Gaston, and had a summer romance with Preston Schoyer. In the summer of 1940 Brown began a long-term relationship with Blanche Oelrichs (nom de plume Michael Strange), poet/playwright, actress, and the former wife of John Barrymore. The relationship, which began as a mentoring one, eventually became romantic, and included co-habitating at 10 Gracie Square in Manhattan beginning in 1943. Strange, who was twenty years Brown's senior, died in 1950.
In 1952, Brown met James Stillman 'Pebble' Rockefeller Jr. at a party, and they became engaged. Later that year, while on a book tour in Nice, France, she unexpectedly died at 42 of an embolism, shortly after suffering from appendicitis. (Kicking up her leg to show the doctor how well she was feeling ironically caused a blood clot that had formed in her leg to dislodge and travel to her heart.) By the time of Brown's death, she had authored well over one hundred books. Her ashes were scattered at her island home, "The Only House" in Vinalhaven, Maine.
Brown went by various nicknames in different circles of friends. To her Dana School and Hollins friends she was "Tim", as her hair was the color of timothy hay. To Bank Street friends she was "Brownie". To William Gaston she was "Goldie", in keeping with the use of Golden MacDonald as author of The Little Island.
Brown bequeathed the royalties to many of her books including Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny to Albert Clarke, the son of a neighbor who was nine years old when she died. In 2000, reporter Joshua Prager detailed in The Wall Street Journal the troubled life of Mr. Clarke, who has squandered the millions of dollars the books have earned him and who believes that Wise Brown was his mother, a claim others dismiss.
Brown left behind over 70 unpublished manuscripts. After unsuccessfully trying to sell them, her sister Roberta Brown Rauch kept them in a cedar trunk for decades. In 1991, Amy Gary of WaterMark Inc., rediscovered the paper-clipped bundles, more than 500 typewritten pages in all, and set about getting the stories published.
Many of Brown's books have been re-issued with new illustrations decades after their original publication. Many more of her books are still in print with the original illustrations. Her books have been translated into several languages; biographies on Brown for children have been written by Leonard S. Marcus (Harper Paperbacks, 1999) and Jill C. Wheeler (Checkerboard Books, 2006). There is a Freudian analysis of her "classic series" of bunny books by Claudia H. Pearson, Have a Carrot (Look Again Press, 2010).