Oral memoirs of Elizabeth Orton Jones , 2004

Overview of the Collection

Jones, Elizabeth Orton, 1910-2005
Oral memoirs of Elizabeth Orton Jones
0.5 linear feet, (3 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 319
Elizabeth Orton Jones (1910-2005) was an illustrator and writer of children's books. The collection consists of an oral history interview of Jones conducted in the fall of 2004 by members of the staff of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries: Linda Long, Dorothy Knaus, and Hannah Dillon. The collection consists of audio cassette tapes, video cassette tapes, and a complete printed and bound transcript of the interview.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

This oral history interview was made possible through a grant from the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon. Funding for transcribing this interview and for processing this collection was provided by R. Jean Taylor.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Oral history interview

Linda Long, Dorothy Knaus, and Hannah Dillon conducted an oral history interview of children's book illustrator and writer Elizabeth Orton Jones in the fall of 2004. The interview was done in Jones' house "Rock-a-Bye" in Mason, New Hampshire. The interviews were done over a three day period, November 28 through November 30.

The interviews were recorded on audio cassette tapes and MiniDV video cassette tapes. Not all parts of the audio recordings are represented on the video recordings due to the fact that on a couple of occasions Jones and the interviewers moved from one room to another and the video camera on its tripod was not moved.

Elizabeth Orton Jones

Born June 25, 1910, in Highland Park, Illinois, Elizabeth Orton Jones was the oldest of three children of Jessie Orton Jones and George Roberts Jones. She majored in art at the University of Chicago and at the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving her Ph.B. in 1932. The same year she acquired a Diplôme in painting at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Fontainebleau, France. In Paris she studied with artist Camille Liausu, who encouraged her to go out and study the children of Paris. When Jones returned to the United States, she had a one-person exhibit of color etchings of children at the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1938 Oxford University Press published Jones's first book, Ragman of Paris and His Ragamuffins. Even before this book was finished she knew that making books for children was what she wanted to do above all else. She stated, "A very strong sense of responsibility to what children are as individuals in their own right became firmly established as an imperative in my life."

In the spring of 1940 Jones worked on illustrations for Maminka's Children (published by the Macmillan Company in 1940) with printers Lillian and William Glaser in Long Island City, New York. The story was inspired by Jones's close friendship with three young Bohemian women who worked for her family when she was a child in Highland Park.

Author of seven books and illustrator of sixteen others, Jones was runner-up for the Caldecott Medal in 1943 for Small Rain: Verses from the Bible, one of four books done in collaboration with her mother, Jessie Orton Jones. She won the Caldecott Medal in 1945 for Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field. Upon winning this prestigious award given annually by the American Library Association for the best-illustrated children's book, Jones commented, "Drawing is very like a prayer. Drawing is a reaching for something away beyond you. As you sit down to work in the morning, you feel as if you were on top of a hill. And it is as if you were seeing for the first time. You take your pencil in hand. You'd like to draw what you see. And so you begin. You try…. Every child in the world has a hill, with a top to it. Every child—black, white, rich, poor, handicapped, unhandicapped. And singing is what the top of each hill is for. Singing-drawing-thinking-dreaming-sitting in silence . . . saying a prayer. I should like every child in the world to know that he has a hill, that that hill is his no matter what happens, his and his only, forever."

With the first royalty check for Twig (Macmillan, 1942) Jones bought a house in Mason, New Hampshire. She and fellow artist Nora Unwin painted murals for the walls at Crotched Mountain Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire. Jones became involved with children with disabilities at Crotched Mountain and for years spent many hours with them. She also helped establish a children's room at the Mason City Library and painted child-size furniture with brightly colored designs inspired by Bohemian folk art.

Early in the 1960s Jones and a group of teachers started Andy's Summer theater, run by and for children. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she wrote plays and designed sets and costumes for the plays.

An artist of many years standing in etching, printing, pastel, water color, gouache, graphite, ink and oil, Jones won numerous awards and had many distinguished exhibits.

Elizabeth Orton Jones died at the age of 94, on May 13, 2005, at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection comprises the oral history interview of Elizabeth Orton Jones. The eight audio cassette tapes constitute the official recording medium for the interview; secondarily, the interview was also recorded on eight MiniDV videotapes. The researcher should be aware that there are occasional discrepancies between the oral recording and the video recording.

The interview has been transcribed and is available in bound form in this collection (Series III).

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Children's literature, American--Authorship
  • Crotched Mountain (Rehabilitation center)
  • Illustrated children's books--United States
  • Women authors, American--20th century--Interviews
  • Women illustrators--United States--Interviews

Personal Names

  • Adshead, Gladys L.
  • Dillon, Hannah
  • Jones, Jessie Orton
  • Knaus, Dorothy
  • Long, Linda, 1956-
  • McGreal, William
  • Stoltenberg, Donald
  • Unwin, Nora S. (Nora Spicer), 1907-1982
  • Yates, Elizabeth, 1905-2001

Form or Genre Terms

  • Interviews
  • Oral histories