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McCarter map
photo of McCarter

Margaret Hill McCarter

The Candle in the Window, cover

The Corner Stone cover

Paying Mother cover

Sunflowers, book of poetry, cover

The Prayer of the Folks, cover



Margaret Hill McCarter was born of Quaker parents in Charlottsville, Indiana, May 2, 1860. Going to college and teaching school were dreams that she held even as a girl. She attended Earlham College, a Quaker school, for two years, and then she attended the State Normal in Terre Haute and began teaching elementary students. She became principal of Rensselaer High, and later became the head of the English department at Goshen High School. She was offered a position in Topeka, Kansas, as head of the English department at Topeka High School, in 1888. McCarter did not plan on staying in Kansas for the rest of her life, but that is what happened. She has said that after she arrived a voice said to her, “This is your town.”

She met William Arthur McCarter in Topeka, and married him in 1890. They had three children: Katherine, Jessie, and William. She began writing novels when her children were school-aged, but was very proud to be a woman who cleaned her own house and took good care of her family.

McCarter’s A Bunch of Things Tied Up with Strings was her first published book, in 1901. She went on to write and publish other short books, such as Cuddy, and Other Stories, and The Cottonwood’s Story. In 1903 she wrote Overflowing Waters, the story of a destructive flood that happened that year. She donated the profits from the book to flood victims. McCarter’s first novel, The Price of the Prairie, took five months to write, and was published in 1910. It went through three editions that first year, and earned a column and a half review in the New York Sun. Twenty years after its publication she had earned $75,000 from its sale. She published many other successful novels, including A Master’s Degree, A Wall of Men, and Homeland: A Present Day Love Story.

McCarter received three honorary degrees: a Master’s from Baker University and Doctorates from Washburn University (D. Litt. 1919) and Emporia University.

*Biographical information obtained from “Margaret Hill McCarter, Topeka Novelist,” by Zula Bennington Greene, published in Kansas Authors of Best Sellers, published by Kansas State College of Pittsburg, 1969, and compiled by Gene DeGruson.

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  

A selection of McCarter's books

Books & Pamphlets:

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A Poem by McCarter  

As a Tale That Is Told (Published in Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems, edited by Willard Wattles, 1916).

This is the tale of Kansas, and this way her legends run
From the dawn of the day on her eastern rim to the going down of the sun;
Whatever is done in thy valleys, whatever is said on thy heights,
Thy losses, and crosses, and sorrows; thy triumphs, thy joys, and delights—
Tho’ the deed be done in the shadow, and only a murmur the word
The eyes of the nation behold it, the ear of the world has heard.
As the Kaw runs to the Missouri, the Missouri runs on to the sea
And their waters in misty beauty fall back from the clouds on thee,
So the winds from the corners of heaven bring back thy message to thee.

Out on the desolate highway that led to the Spaniards’ land
Went the unknown trader and trapper o’er the cactus-fringed path of sand,
Where these wardens of commerce went building the trail down to old Santa Fe,
With unmarked graves for their milestones over stretches of wilderness gray,
Where the Pawnee Rock stood, a fortress, grim citadel of the Plains,
Where the blood of Comanche victims the Cimarron desert stains—
The Kaw has told the Missouri, the Missouri has told the sea,
And the iron-clad engines of traffic today bring their treasures to thee
From the Lakes to where the Sierras dip down to the sunset sea.

Fertile and fair lay thy prairies, awaiting a pioneer’s hand
Sheltered by cottonwood branches, the brave little cabin home stands
Where the staunch-hearted lover of freedom in an unequaled terrible fight,
With the ruffian from over the Border has made his last stand for the Right,
‘Til defenseless he falls like a martyr in the wrath of the torch’s red glare—
Is there no voice to tell of this hero, no ear that will list to a prayer?
Yes. The Kaw has told the Missouri, the Missouri has told the sea,
And the roar of a thousand cannons on battlefields thunder thy plea,
From that deed by the darkness enshrouded comes the sunburst of liberty.

Here in the “short grass” country with distances dreamy and wide
The sturdy young claim-holder builded a sod-covered house for his bride.
Though the Cheyenne put on his war-bonnet and went forth by bands to destroy
Though the drouth and the locust and cyclone joined hands in a force to annoy
He planted his grain by all waters, his service can never be told
And the seed that fell by the wayside has brought forth a hundred fold.
For the Kaw has told the Missouri, the Missouri has told the sea,
And food for the starving millions, thy broad-acred bounty shall be
The toil begun at the “grass roots,” brings riches and honor to Thee.

Broad are thy skies, over-arching, and fair is thy land to behold
Thy schools are the pride of thy people, thy churches are manifold.
In the veins of thy sons, strong and noble, is the blood of a pioneer line
And the demon they fight on thy border is the demon that lurks in red wine.
And patiently still wait thy daughters, their God-given rights to possess
When a citizenship universal thy brow with new laurel shall dress
The Kaw will tell the Missouri, the Missouri will tell the sea,
And the power that uplifts a nation, the leaven of history
Through a whispered word on the prairie will shout from the skies to thee.

The prophet, Ezekiel, has written that fronting to Eastward stands
A house, from under whose threshold the waters pour, healing all lands.
The fishermen of Engedi spread their nets and rejoice day by day,
The trees on its banks never wither, the deserts with blossoms are gay.
And so may we write of this Kansas, a house fronting still to the sun,
So long as its sons and its daughters shall do as their fathers have done
While the Kaw runs to the Missouri, the Missouri runs on to the sea,
The throb of the blossom-starred prairies, the pulse of the world shall be,
And the limit no man shall measure, for the end is Eternity.

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McCarter was a member of the Kansas Authors Club. This is her name tag from the 1935 Kansas Authors Club banquet.

McCarters Kansas Author's Club nametag mccarter nametag

A program from a discussion led by McCarter

flyer from a discussion led by McCarter inside

This poem about Topeka was published by McCarter in 1901

newspaper poem called On Harrison Street, Looking North

Manuscript for the poem "Fall Styles in Trees" with corrections and McCarter's signature

fall styles in trees manuscript

*These images have been generously provided by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, where these McCarter artifacts are part the Topeka Room's Special Collections)

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Download one of McCarter’s novels, Vanguard of the Plains, from the Project Gutenberg site.

Margaret Hill McCarter on Kansas Historical Society's website.

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