Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Time Period


Notable Facts

Author of many novels and short stories. Dedicated humanitarian during WWII, helping many children's causes in Europe through her writing and activism in the U.S. Brought the Montessori method of child rearing to America. Named by Eleanor Roosevelt as one of the ten most influential women in the United States.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence




Historical Significance

Dorothy Canfield Fisher was born in Lawrence, Kansas to parents of Vermont descent. Her father's family had settled in Vermont shortly after the French and Indian War. As a child, Fisher was an avid learner, and traveled often with her family to Europe to study the arts. She attended a boarding school in Paris. Her father, James, became Chancellor of the University of Nebraska, and later, president of the National Education Association. When he became president of Ohio State University, the family moved again to Columbus. Fisher's family believed women should have the same educational opportunities as men. She attended Ohio State, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1899. She then attended graduate school in Paris, studied German in Hanover, and worked at the British Museum.

On returning from Europe, Fisher lived with her family in New York City, where her father now worked as librarian for Columbia University. Here, Fisher began writing articles for publications such as, "The Outlook", the "Times", and "Harper's Bazaar". While studying for her doctorate in French, she alternated terms in European universities with terms in New York at Columbia University. She received her PhD in French in 1904.

In 1907, Dorothy married John Fisher, a law student from New York. The couple moved to Arlington, Vermont that year to pursue careers as free-lance writers. They had two children, Sally and James.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher was the author of many novels and short stories throughout her lifetime. Some of these include: "Hillsboro People" (1915) (which is set in Arlington, VT), "The Bent Twig" (1915), several books influenced by Italian educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, including, "The Montessori Mother" (1912), three volumes of short stories influenced by her family's experiences in the French war camps and clinics of WWII including, "Home Fires in France" (1918), home and family novels including, "Her Son's Wife" (1926), and several historical children's books such as, "Paul Revere and the Minute Men" (1950).

Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a member of the first board of the Book-of-the-Month Club, where she played an important role in promoting such noted writers as Pearl Buck, Isaac Dinesen, and Richard Wright. She was also a member of the Vermont Historical Society, which she joined in 1921. Fisher is credited with bringing the Montessori Method of teaching to the United States from Europe, and being the first woman to serve on the Vermont Board of Education. Eleanor Roosevelt named Fisher one of the ten most influential women in the United States.

Fisher is remembered for her activism in war-related causes, such as her work with war blind in France. She established the Fund to Aid French Children. She helped children of refugees by providing them with summer homes. She also worked with the Children's Crusade for Children, and was recognized by several organizations for her humanitarian work. Much of her humanitarian work was done through written contributions that raised awareness in the U.S. about the war in Europe. She contributed to works such as, "The City of Man: A Declaration on World Democracy" and "America Organizes to Win the War".

Fisher was honored with many Doctor of Letters degrees, including those from Middlebury College (1921), the University of Vermont (1922), and Dartmouth College (1922). The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award was established before her death in 1958.

Organizations or Movements

  • Fund to Aid French Children
  • The Children's Crusade
  • Book-of-the Month Club
  • Vermont Historical Society
  • Vermont Board of Education


  • British Museum employee
  • Writer
  • Activist
  • Humanitarian


  • BA, Ohio State, (1899)
  • Doctorate, French, Columbia University, 1904
  • Honorary Doctorates, Middlebury College (1921), University of Vermont (1922), Dartmouth College (1922)

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Encyclopedia Britannica Link

  • "Those Indomitable Vermont Women", essay by Linda R. Head Link

  • Duffy, John, eds. "Dorothy Canfield Fisher." In The Vermont Encyclopedia. University Press of New England, 2003.

  • The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Link

  • Vermont's Great Moments of the Twentieth Century Link

  • Birthday Bios: Dorothy Canfield Fisher Link

  • Schroeter, Joan Gitzel. The Canfield-Cleghorn correspondence : two lives in letters. 1993.

Additional Images

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher