Margaret Hill McCarter: Teacher and Famous Author of Pioneer Novels

mccarter_margaretOften talented teachers establish a reputation for excellence in fields other than education. This is certainly the case of Margaret Hill McCarter, a well-known author who penned novels set against the background of the Kansas Prairies.

Margaret was born in Carthge, Indiana, on May 2, 1860, the daughter of Quaker parents named Thomas and Nancy (Davis) Hill. She attended Earlham College, a Quaker college, and in 1884 graduated from the State Normal School at Terre Haute, Indiana. She taught school in her home state for nine years, and then relocated to Kansas in 1888 to head the department of English at Topeka High School. There Margaret met and married Dr. William McCarter, on June 5, 1890. Soon the couple expanded their family to include three children.

Margaret began her writing career in 1901. Her early works included The Cottonwood’s Story, 1903; Cuddy’s Baby, 1907; In Old Quivira, 1908; Cuddy and Other Stories, 1908. In 1909 she wrote The Price of the Prairie, which dealt with settlers in post Civil War Kansas. These novels appealed to readers who appreciated her detailed descriptions of the landscape and events. Her later works include The Peace of the Solomon Valley, 1911; A Wall of Men, 1912; A Master’s Degree, 1913; Winning of the Wilderness, 1914; The Cornerstone, 1915; Vanguards of The Plains, A Romance of the Santa Fe Trail, 1917; and The Reclaimers, 1918.

In addition to her writing, McCarter devoted much time to her work civic organizations and clubs, and she became a well-known public speaker. She was active in the Republican Party, and this resulted in an invitation to address the 1920 convention. Margaret was the first woman to speak to the national gathering.

During her lifetime, McCarter received honorary doctorates from Washburn University and the College of Emporia. Today, Margaret Hill McCarter Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas, carries on the memory of this celebrated Kansas author.

Margaret McCarter passed away on August 31, 1938, and is buried in Topeka.