About the Author
Eva J. Kelly, born in Massachusetts in1897, began her writing career at age nine when she sold a story about horses to the children’s page of her local newspaper. This success was not a surprising one, as she grew up in a home in which writing, books and storytelling were vital parts of daily life. Eva’s father, a doctor, who was also a writer of poetry, “used to come upstairs after office hours were over and read or tell us legends and stories of Irish saints and scholars.” Likewise her mother “had her own collection of tales...all dramatic and all, I realize now, inspirational.”
As a school teacher for several years, Miss Kelly did some varied writing including one-act plays for children. Then she married Joseph Betz, and when her son Peter began to ask for a new story each night, she was stimulated to put some of these down on paper. Later she aired a selection of them on a radio station where she had a program at that time.
Having always been an omnivorous reader, Eva Betz was delighted to discover “the world of book reviewing where you get all the new books free and are paid for saying what you think of them.” She enjoyed doing just that, whether in various local magazines and journals, on the radio or while lecturing. By now, she was up to her ears in activities of family life and in community organizations.
One day a new writing focus came her way when a disgruntled librarian complained to Mrs. Betz that she was tired of teachers sending children for reading books about New Jersey during the American Revolution—because there were no such books. The librarian suggested that Eva write some. Although Mrs. Betz, a New Englander, felt that on the whole, “the Revolution belonged to New England,” she delved into research. She wanted to make the point “that the Revolution was not the effort of one single religious or racial group but the work of many people of many backgrounds; people similar only in their love of liberty.” Mrs. Betz soon discovered that New Jersey, “lying as it did between the prize cities of New York and Philadelphia, was the cockpit of the Revolution.” From papers, diaries, and records, she had great fun writing a series of historical fiction books for teenagers set in this area, carrying the story “through four volumes from 1774 to 1781.”
This project encouraged her to continue to write books for teenagers. Mrs. Betz turned her attention to telling the stories of real life people for youth: Damien of Molokai; Francis X Ford (20th century missionary to China); and Fr. Farmer (Priest on Horseback), who also appears in her book about Bishop Carroll. “My tomboy youth cultivated in me a love of excitement and approval of people who get things done. Such people are fun to write about.... Goodness and dullness are not necessarily synonymous.”
Eva Betz died in Passaic, New Jersey on April 9, 1968.