Sorensen, Virginia Eggertsen, 1912-

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Virginia Eggertsen Sorensen was born in 1912 in Provo, Utah. She became a student journalist during high school and graduated from Brigham Young University in 1934. She married Frederick Sorensen and began a family. Her first book, influenced by her Mormon background, was published in 1942. She began writing books for children, and was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1957 for her book Miracles on Maple Hill . She died in 1991.

From the guide to the I knew a woman [manuscript], 195?, (University of Minnesota Libraries. Literary Manuscripts Collections, Manuscripts Division [mss])

Virginia Sorensen was born Virginia Eggertsen in Provo, Utah, in 1912 and spent her formative years from age five to thirteen in Manti, Utah. She graduated from American Fork High School, and later from Brigham Young University (1934), and she also studied at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and at Stanford University. She married Frederick Sorensen and lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, in Denver, Colorado, in Auburn, Alabama, and in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. After the dissolution of her marriage to Sorensen, she married the English writer Alec Waugh and lived with him in Morocco from 1967 to 1980, when she returned to the United States.

Sorensen's fiction writing reflects what she termed "the real dilemma of the novelist in our time and place . . . to somehow balance the importance of the individual . . . with the importance of the great events that wash people into vast groups and crowds, into anonymous armies." Her critically well received first novel, A Little Lower than the Angels (1942), deals with the beginnings of polygamy in Mormon Nauvoo. On This Star (1946), The Evening and the Morning (1949), Many Heavens (1954), and Where Nothing Is Long Ago (1963) all focus on conflicts between independent-minded individuals and Mormon small-town society.

Sorensen was twice awarded Guggenheim fellowships. The first resulted in The Proper Gods (1951), which follows the efforts of a Yaqui Indian to recover his ancestral traditions. A second Guggenheim supported research in Denmark that enabled Sorensen to write Kingdom Come (1960), an imaginative recreation of the lives of Danish converts to Mormonism during the 1850s. Her other novels are The Neighbors (1947) and The Man With the Key (1974).

Sorensen also published seven books for children, beginning with Curious Missy (1953), which grew out of her efforts to establish a bookmobile program in Alabama. Child Study Award-winning Plain Girl (1955) explores the conflict between the individual and the community among the Amish of Pennsylvania. Miracles on Maple Hill (1957), which won the John Newbery Medal of the American Library Association, is also set in Pennsylvania. Virginia Sorensen died on 24 December 1991.


Capsule biography, written by Edward A. Geary, from the Utah History Encyclopedia

Additional sources:

Lee, L. L. and S. B., "Virginia Sorensen," Western Writers Series, No. 31, Boise State University, Idaho, 1978. (USU Special Collections & Archives, call number 979.092 W524w no. 31)

Mary Lythgoe Bradford, "Virginia Sorensen: An Introduction," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 13, 1980.

From the guide to the Kingdom Come, Drafts, 1955-1960, (Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Millicent Dillon Papers TXRC92-A25., 1905-1990 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf I knew a woman [manuscript], 195? University of Minnesota Libraries. Literary Manuscripts Collection, Manuscripts Division. [mss]
creatorOf Kingdom Come, Drafts, 1955-1960 Utah State University. Merrill-Cazier Library. Special Collections and ArchivesManuscript Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Dillon, Millicent 1925- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences


Birth 1912

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Ark ID: w6hk1f94

SNAC ID: 45810785