Looking for the Seattle Experience: Betty MacDonald

If you have ever encountered tourists at Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend who are looking for Twin Peaks sites, or visitors from around the world who flock to Forks in search of Twilight, then you have had a taste of the international romance with the Pacific Northwest experience.   A new biography, Looking for Betty MacDonald, will debut this week as the story of a Pacific Northwest author whose writing caught the imagination of people in many other countries.

Egg and I RoadOne of the first Pacific Northwest writers to rocket into world renown was Betty MacDonald who wrote The Egg and I in 1945.  Her memoir of struggling with chicken farming on the Olympic Peninsula was humorous and yet it delved deeply into important topics such as marriage, motherhood, the expectations of society towards women in the 1930s and 1940s and the quest for the “ideal” interrelationship with the rainy Pacific Northwest climate.

Betty’s book, The Egg and I, was the number one best-seller of the year 1946, was translated into many languages, and has never gone out of print.  Betty MacDonald followed up with memoirs about other phases of her life, always adding a light touch to the dramas of financial strain during the 1930s economic depression years and even humor in her confinement for tuberculosis.

New houses replaced the family home of Betty MacDonald at 6317 15th Ave NE.

New houses replaced the family home of Betty MacDonald at 6317 15th Ave NE.

Paula Becker, a HistoryLink writer with more than 300 essays and two books to her credit, has researched the Betty MacDonald phenomena.  Since Betty’s family lived much of their lives in northeast Seattle, Betty’s memoirs give us a foundational understanding of life lived around the Roosevelt neighborhood with its schools, shops and streetcar lines prior to 1940.  Paula Becker wrote a HistoryLink essay about the family home at 6317 15th Ave NE and her last visit to the house on July 24, 2012, the day the house was torn down.

Paula Becker introduced Looking for Betty MacDonald on September 10, 2016, at the downtown Seattle Public Library, the beginning of an extensive tour of speaking dates.  Other upcoming speaking dates are listed in on her webpage in the Events info.  Here is a recent book review in The Seattle Times.

Betty MacDonald.front cover

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for neighborhood history in Seattle, Washington.
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7 Responses to Looking for the Seattle Experience: Betty MacDonald

  1. I’ve noticed Egg And I Road every time I go out to Port Townsend (in Chimacum). Never knew the connection, though.

  2. Yup, this is the real deal! So many people made pilgrimages out to see the family’s residence that it just made sense to mark the road. Sort of like Troll Avenue in Fremont which is underneath Aurora, it is a destination made easier by marking the street.

    Author Paula Becker will be speaking about her book in a number of locations including branches of the King County Library system. She is a wonderful storyteller.

  3. hdemare says:

    It is amazing that Betty was able to keep her sense of humor through all her trials and tribulations. Thanks for another wonderful post about the Great Pacific Northwest.

  4. And that is exactly the charm of Betty’s writing — the sense of absurdity through what was some very serious issues. It has been said that Betty’s writings struck just the right note for those who had lived through the economic depression of the 1930s and the war years of the 1940s. And yet her book endures for people of succeeding generations, as well, struggling with the issues of their lives.

  5. Thanks for the heads up! Pre-ordered. I can’t wait to read this and wouldn’t have known about it without your guidance. Awesome!

  6. Listening to Paula talk (at her lecture at the library on Saturday) was really a tour of the inside of Paula’s brain! She is a staff writer for HistoryLink and is meticulous about facts and accuracy but also the cultural value of the experience of an individual like Betty MacDonald.

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