Question of the Week
Who wrote Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention?
Answer: Catherine Drinker Bowen
One of our nation’s most acclaimed authors was Catherine Drinker Bowen, who was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, in 1897 and went on to win the National Book Award and the Women’s National Book Association Award. Bowen was the youngest of six children of Henry Sturgis Drinker, a well known lawyer, and Aimee Ernesta Beaux, sister of artist Cecilia Beaux. In the early 1900s, the Drinkers moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Bowen attended local schools there, including the Moravian Seminary, in between the family’s extensive travels. Bowen was a talented violinist from an early ago and studied violin at The Peabody Conservatory in Maryland and the Institute of Musical Art, which would become the Juilliard School in New York. In 1919, she married Lehigh University professor Ezra Bowen, and the couple had two children.
In the 1920s, Bowen discovered another talent—writing. She published stories and articles in magazines including Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Home Companion. She published a children’s book and a historical study of Lehigh University. Bowen and her husband divorced in 1936 and shortly after Bowen started writing biographies, the genre for which she would become known. Her first biography was “Beloved Friend” The Story of Tchaikowsky and Nadejda von Meck, which was published in 1937 and sold more than 150,000 copies.
In 1966 Bowen published one of her most well known works, Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention. In the book Bowen consulted a number of original sources, such as papers from the Founding Fathers, to detail the creation and writing of the U. S. Constitution. The book was a critical success. Bowen died in Haverford in 1973.
Some of Catherine Drinker Bowen's correspondence with author and friend Barbara Clayton Rex can be found in the Rex family papers (#3003). A number of Bowen's books are also available in our library.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.