Margaret Ayer Barnes

Barnes on her graduation day in 1907

Margaret Ayer Barnes (April 8, 1886, Chicago, Illinois – October 25, 1967, Cambridge, Massachusetts) was an American playwright, novelist, and short-story writer.

She was educated at Bryn Mawr College, where she earned an A.B. degree in 1907. She married Cecil Barnes in 1910, and had three sons, Cecil Jr., Edward Larrabee and Benjamin Ayer. In 1920, Barnes was elected alumnae director of Bryn Mawr and served three years. As director, she helped to organize the Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, which offered an alternative educational program for women workers within a traditional institution. Consisting mainly of young, single immigrant women with little to no academic background, the summer program offered courses in progressive education, liberal arts and economics. Women in the program were encouraged to develop confidence as speakers, writers and leaders in the workplace.[1]

In 1926, at age 40, she broke her back in a traffic accident, and, with the encouragement of friend and playwright Edward Sheldon, took up writing as a way to occupy her time. Between 1926 and 1930 she wrote several short stories and three plays, including an adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. In 1931 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her first novel, Years of Grace.

A 1936 lawsuit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for copyright infringement claimed that the script MGM used for the motion picture Letty Lynton (1932) plagiarized material from the play Dishonored Lady by Edward Sheldon and Barnes. The film is still unavailable today because of this lawsuit.

Her son was architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. Her older sister, Janet Ayer Fairbank, was also a notable writer, and her niece Janet Fairbank (1903–1947) was a well-known operatic singer.


  • The Age of Innocence, a dramatization of Edith Wharton's novel of the same name (produced 1928), made into a 1934 motion picture of the same name.
  • Jenny, a play, with Edward Sheldon (1929).
  • Dishonored Lady, a play, also with Sheldon (1930), made into a 1947 motion picture of the same name (aka Sins of Madeleine) starring Hedy Lamarr and released by United Artists.
  • Prevailing Winds, short stories (1928).
  • Years of Grace, a novel (1930), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
  • Westward Passage, a novel (1931), made into a 1932 motion picture of the same name.
  • Within This Present, a novel (1933).
  • Edna, His Wife, a novel (1935), later adapted into a play of the same name by Cornelia Otis Skinner.
  • Wisdom's Gate, a novel (1938).


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Barnes, Margaret Ayer — (1886 1967)    Margaret Ayer was born in Chicago. In 1925, needing something to do while recovering from an automobile accident in France, she began writing her novels and short stories. Her two plays, Jenny (1929) and Dishonored Lady* (1930),… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

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  • Janet Ayer Fairbank — (June 7, 1878 December 28, 1951) was an American author and suffragette, socially and politically active in Chicago and a champion of progressive causes. She attended the University of Chicago and in 1900 married the lawyer Kellogg Fairbank, the… …   Wikipedia

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  • Letty Lynton — Infobox Film name = Letty Lynton image size = 140 caption = Original film poster director = Clarence Brown producer = Hunt Stromberg Irving Thalberg writer = Novel: Marie Belloc Lowndes Adaptation: John Meehan Wanda Tuchock narrator = starring =… …   Wikipedia

  • Edward Sheldon — Infobox Writer name = Edward Sheldon imagesize = caption = pseudonym = birthdate = 1886 birthplace = Chicago, Illinois, U.S. deathdate = death date and age|1946|04|1|1886|0|0 (lymphatic cancer) deathplace = New York City, New York, U.S.… …   Wikipedia

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  • List of women writers — compactTOC NOTOC A* Eleanor Hallowell Abbott * Louise Abeita * Abiola Abrams * Kathy Acker * Juliette Adam * Abigail Adams * Stephanie Adams (born 1970), American author. * Fleur Adcock (born 1935) * Yda Addis * Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie * Renata… …   Wikipedia

  • Years of Grace — Infobox Book | name = Years of Grace title orig = translator = image caption = author = Margaret Ayer Barnes illustrator = cover artist = country = United States language = English series = genre = Novel publisher = release date = 1930 english… …   Wikipedia

  • Gone with the Wind — This article is about the novel. For the film, see Gone with the Wind (film). For other uses, see Gone with the Wind (disambiguation). Gone With the Wind …   Wikipedia

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