All posts by Betsy

Review of Croswell Bowen: A Writer’s Life, A Daughter’s Portrait




“Croswell Bowen: A Writer’s Life, a Daughter’s Portrait.” By Betsy Connor Bowen. Potomac Books. September 2014. 270 pages. Hardcover. $23.96.

Often, reading about the times in which the subject of a biography lived is as interesting as reading about the subject himself.
That is the case with “Croswell Bowen: A Writer’s Life, a Daughter’s Portrait,” by Betsy Connor Bowen of Winthrop. Continue reading

Croswell Bowen

Croswell Bowen (1905-1971) was born in Toledo, Ohio, the son of a newly wealthy real estate entrepreneur and an Irish-American southern belle, and was sent east to the elite schools of Choate and Yale. After a “grand tour” of Europe, he returned to Depression-ravaged America and settled in New York’s Greenwich Village, where he weathered the loss of his father and his family fortune but grew into his vocation as a writer. Continue reading

Back From Tobruk Q & A

By TOM ATWELL, Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram

Croswell Bowen, a successful magazine and book photographer, signed up to take photographs for the American Field Service in 1941, before the United States entered World War II.

 He was assigned to a unit serving alongside British forces in North Africa. By the time he reached Cairo, the United States had entered the war, although there were few Americans in Egypt.

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A Liberal LIfe

Just released: Croswell Bowen: A Writer’s Life, A Daughter’s Portrait
My bio/memoir about my journalist and biographer father, CROSWELL BOWEN: A Writer’s Life, A Daughter’s Portrait has just been released by Potomac Books.

The book tells the story of my father’s life through his eyes as he experiences the great events of the 20th Century, from the Crash of ’29 to WWII through the McCarthy era to VietNam. Continue reading

Liberal-Conservative Gridlock, Genes, and Hope

black hole at center of universe

I found my fire-breathing liberal journalist father 220 light years away, in the constellation Perseus, on the edge of a black hole with the mass of 17 billion Suns. It didn’t surprise me he’d ended up here, about to be sucked into the biggest black hole ever just so he could check out dark matter. He was like that.

I skipped the preliminaries: happy to see me after forty two years? Want to know how things turned out for the family back on earth? The edge of the black hole was drawing perilously close.

“Dad,” I rushed. “Have you read the recent Genome-Wide Analysis of Liberal and Conservative Political Attitudes? I’ve got a few questions for you.” Continue reading

Liberalism, Smog, and Climate Change

"Let's go to the Trans-Lux and hiss Roosevelt!"

“Let’s go to the Trans-Lux and hiss Roosevelt!”

Is climate change a liberal issue? It appears not.

Dorothea Lange captured the pain of a migrant mother whose children had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and birds they killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food.

Dorothea Lange captured the anguish of a migrant mother whose children had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and birds they killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food.

“Let’s go to the Trans-Lux and hiss Roosevelt!” satirized this 1936 Peter Arno cartoon in the liberal New Yorker. Continue reading

Liberalism, Tobruk, and a Shared Woodbine

IMG_0118.JPG New Zealanders eating in Libyan desert 11588 - 1A LCIn food memories we store our autobiographies. In food memories, too, we find material for biography. Memories of empathy among former enemies reinforced my father’s liberalism: his hope for world peace; for the social safety net.

Born in the last months of WWII, by 1948 I was a strapping four-year-old in a country farmhouse kitchen oblivious of the food rationing that had ended two years earlier. Continue reading

Palestine, the Arab Spring, and World Peace



The year was 1942; Croswell Bowen was returning to wartime New York. From the ferry’s deck he watched as the Statue of Liberty grew small and blurry in the morning mist. He pondered what he had seen. He had huddled in foxholes as Rommel’s bombs rained down on Tobruk; had lain in stretcher lines and hospital beds alongside soldiers of many nations.  What would give all that suffering meaning? Continue reading

Creative Writers All


Here’s what happened. It was 12:20; lunchtime. They could have been over in the cafeteria, clumped up tight around the tables, but here they were, hanging out in Christina Benedict’s classroom. A few girls sat around a laptop, absorbed. A tall young man wrote out word scrambles on the blackboard, and the guesses flew — silly, funny, hit or miss. “This isn’t a test” was his attitude. “It’s fun.” Continue reading

Gloomy day yesterday but Waldoboro visit is next Friday!

So! Have an author visit to Waldoboro a week from today. I will talk to Amber Jeskey’s class. Bob’s driving. He somehow came by a paper copy of a Maine Atlas so we won’t have those infernal conversations about whether or not the GPS device is wrong. Last night I went out, turned on the deck light, and there it was, just a bit, floating down. Then this morning, from my greenhouse — voila! Snow dripping off the branches, a thick, heavy one, and the light is stunning.

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Class Trip


SPRING BEAR found its audience one warm spring day in in this high school English class in Winthrop ME . It was one of the happiest days of my life. (I’m the lady on the left in the purple blouse, sitting on a desk). Those spectacular teenagers seated to the right either know someone like — or could themselves have been — my Evvie Mallow or Rich Parker. Connecting with them over a world I’d imagined and they’d come to know through the book was –um — sorry, I just can’t find words for it.

But they did. They wrote me letters. Here is some of what they said.
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A Trailer in the Making

Day dawned cloudy and raining. Just what we wanted. Up at first light. Fetched Dave Bubier, holding down the lead role of Lester Darrow. He brought the guns. Drove to Roberta and David Manter, gracious providers of the perfect location. Met up with producer Dean Gyorgy ( and his wife Margot, playing the lady from Massachusetts. Dean scouted out the the best camera angles, called for Lester Darrow to come on set. Mounted his Canon 5D Mark II on his Manfrotto monopod and began shooting. Continue reading

Back From Tobruk: Daughter, Editor, Biographer?



Croswell Bowen was my father. He began writing and taking photographs for Back from Tobruk in 1941 while en route with his unit of American Field Service volunteer ambulance drivers to serve alongside the British Eighth Army in North Africa. Armed with camera and notebook, war was an assignment he could finally sink his teeth into — until the bombs dropped and the story began.

I began editing the manuscript of this book back in 2006, spurred on by the questions a nephew asked about what had happened to his grandfather in the war. Continue reading

Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause

51skygqsWhL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_What a powerful story Heath Lee has to tell in Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause (Potomac: 2014).  Even in 1864 as Yankee gunfire pounded Richmond, the birth of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ daughter Winnie was hailed as a good omen. On her tiny frame a desperate South hung its hope that the noble cause would prevail. That she would embody the four ideals of Southern womanhood: Piety, Purity, Submissiveness, and Domesticity. Continue reading