Ocracoke in the Fifties

Ocracoke in the Fifties


Dare Wright

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Half a century after the publication of The Lonely Doll, Dare Wright remains a subject of fascination. A strikingly attractive woman-child—a model and fashion photographer who always saw the world through the eyes of a girl—she was the author of nineteen children’s books that are still remembered fondly by a legion of fans. Ocracoke in the Fifties, now in print for the first time, is Dare Wright’s only book for adults. First and foremost, it is a tribute to one of Dare’s favorite places. It is also a time capsule of a unique island culture just past the midpoint of the twentieth century. And surprisingly, it is a testament to the timelessness of Ocracoke—which would please Dare immensely. Ocracoke has seen its share of changes, to be sure, but readers will have no trouble recognizing the durable little island off the North Carolina coast. The Ocracoke Lighthouse, the British Cemetery, the pony herd, the white picket fences, the legend of Blackbeard, the weathered fishermen, the barefoot children—seldom have Ocracoke’s landmarks, legends, and people been portrayed so memorably as by Dare Wright’s camera and pen. Dare Wright died in 2001. Ocracoke in the Fifties will bring a twinge of nostalgia to those who loved her children’s books and introduce her to a new generation of readers.

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Dare Wright (1914–2001) was born in Canada on December 3, 1914. Her parents' marriage dissolved before Dare turned three, and Dare's father left with her older brother, Blaine. The children were not to reunite until they were in their twenties. Dare grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and showed an early creative aptitude. Encouraged by her mother, the artist Edith Stevenson Wright, Dare learned to sketch, paint, write, and sew. It took the catalyst of photography for Dare to later combine these talents into her Lonely Doll ® book series. Moving to New York in her twenties, Dare modeled for major magazines and had small parts in theatrical productions. A stunning beauty, Dare seemed a natural for show business, but she was never comfortable performing in a public venue. Competition, whether with other actresses for roles, or with her mother as a painter, was too distressing. Instead, Dare found her niche as a photographer, first in the fashion field, and then as a children's book author. In 1941, Dare and her brother Blaine met for the first time since they had been separated as children. Blaine was handsome, witty, and everything Dare could have wished for in a sibling. Blaine introduced Dare to his RAF friend, Philip Sandeman. The two became engaged, but the wedding never transpired.  The 1957 success of Dare's first book, The Lonely Doll, brought her recognition as both an author and photographer. Illustrated with Dare's haunting black-and-white photographs, the seemingly simple text touched both children and their parents.  Almost fifty years later, Dare's nineteen published books continue to delight a new generation of readers.