Ursula Nordstrom

1910 - 1988

Author, Director, Editor, & Publisher


"We don't publish books for adults; we do them for children, and sometimes it's a problem to get books through the adults to the children" - Nordstrom, as quoted by Commire.

Ursula Nordstom
Born on February 2nd in 1910, Ursula Nordstom grew up in New York City. She took business courses at the Scudder School in New York before being hired as a clerk in the textbook department of Harper & Brothers and later as an assistant in the Harper Books for Boys and Girls section. In 1960 Ursula Nordstrom became the first female vice president of Harper & Brothers and wrote her only fictional book for children, entitled The Secret Language. She is known for encouraging realism in children's books- often uncomfortable realities. Her own book deals with divorce and the difficulties in being sent off to boarding school. Honesty and realism for young people were her bywords, and she promoted these ideals over the course of her career. She died in 1988 after a battle with ovarian cancer.

Photograph from Ursula Nordstom's Contribution to the Information Environment

  • ALA Notable Book - The Secret Language
  • Association of American Publishers' Curtis Benjamin Award for "recognition of innovation and creativity in publishing"
Selected Works
  • Nordstrom, Ursula. (1960). The Secret Language. Evanston: Harper & Row.
  • Commire, Annem ed. (1973). Something About the Author. Vol. 3. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Book.
  • Marcus, Leonard, ed. (1998). Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstom. New York: Harper Collins.

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Last Modified: May 5, 2002