Cover image for Fawn McKay Brodie : a biographer's life
Fawn McKay Brodie : a biographer's life
Bringhurst, Newell G.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 350 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT275.B7447 B75 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this much-awaited biography, Newell G. Bringhurst portrays the life and career of Fawn McKay Brodie, author of some of the most widely read biographies of the twentieth century.

Author Notes

Newell G. Bringhurst, President of the Mormon History Association, is Instructor of History and Political Science at the College of the Sequoias, Visalia, California.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

To the general public, Fawn McKay Brodie is best known as the author of controversial biographies of such historical icons as Joseph Smith and Thomas Jefferson. Bringhurst, like Brodie, was raised in rural Utah by Mormon parents. He seems to bring a special passion and understanding to his subject, persuasively portraying her as a tough, independent woman who willingly braved an avalanche of criticism for various assertions in her "intimate" biographies. Bringhurst provides credible speculations on her formative years, which included a strong yet ambivalent rejection of Mormonism. To her death in 1981, Brodie remained a staunch liberal, just as the designation was becoming one of opprobrium. As a teacher at UCLA, Brodie inevitably was drawn into conflict with then governor Ronald Reagan. This is an informative and absorbing account of an admirable and interesting life. --Jay Freeman

Choice Review

Bringhurst's examination of the noted biographer Fawn McKay Brodie is richly drawn from her extensive papers and writings, Mormon Church records, and numerous interviews. The author's multidimensional treatment analyzes Brodie's familial background, childhood, and marriage, along with the craft of writing as it enveloped her. In carefully etched chapters, Bringhurst analyzes Brodie's five biographies as he simultaneously examines her life and times. The author tellingly relates the art of biography, as Brodie moved through her studies of Mormon founder Joseph Smith; Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Reconstructionist who devised the 14th Amendment; the English explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton; Thomas Jefferson; and Richard Nixon. All the while, Brodie was compelled to deal with her straitened upbringing, which scarred her in many ways, particularly in the sexual realm. Thus it is hardly surprising that she favored psychosexual interpretations of her subjects, which made for controversial and sometime best-selling works. Brodie's biography of Smith resulted in her excommunication from the Mormon Church, while her highlighting of Thomas Jefferson's long-time affair with a black slave produced a financial windfall but derision from many members of the academic community. Sensitively, Bringhurst relates how Brodie had to contend with her own husband's affair. Recommended for all readers. R. C. Cottrell; California State University, Chico

Table of Contents

Fawn McKay Brodie
List of Illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introductionp. 3
1. "An Idyllic Childhood": 1915-1932p. 7
2. "A Quiet Kind of Moving Out": 1932-1938p. 45
3. "A Compelling Piece of Detective Work": 1938-1946p. 71
4. "An Enormously Fulfilling Role": 1946-1959p. 116
5. "A Fun Book to Write": 1960-1967p. 155
6. "An Elaborate Psychological Exploration": 1967-1974p. 185
7. "The Hardest Book": 1974-1981p. 223
Epilogue: Controversy and Legacyp. 259
Notesp. 271
Worksp. 321
Selected Bibliographyp. 325
Indexp. 341