Cover of the book

 

“Our Island Story”

Who was Henrietta Marshall?

Very little is known for certain about Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall. She was born in Scotland in 1867, the third daughter in a family of six children, and was warden of Queen Margaret Hall in Glasgow from 1901-1904. She was in Melbourne when Our Island Story was published in 1905, in Oxford from 1905 until 1908, and in Redlands, California, USA from 1913 until 1917.

All else about the author of Our Island Story remains shrouded in mystery save for her abiding legacy to the world. This consists of a remarkable series of children’s books that she wrote, dealing, for the most part, with the history and literature of the British people at home and elsewhere in the world where they have settled in number.

Her principal books, together with the dates each was first published, are Our Island Story: A History of England for Boys and Girls (1905); Stories of Robin Hood Told to Children (1905); Stories of Guy of Warwick Told to Children (1906); Stories of William Tell Told to Children (1906); Scotland’s Story: A History of Scotland for Boys and Girls (1906); Stories of Roland Told to the Children (1907); Our Empire Story: Stories of India and the Greater Colonies told to Boys and Girls (1908); Stories of Beowulf Told to the Children (1908); English Literature for Boys and Girls (1909); A History of France (1912); Through Great Britain and Ireland with Cromwell (1912); This Country of Ours (1917); and Kings and Things (1937).

Henrietta Marshall never married and had no children. However, the subject matter of her books and the gentleness of their style suggest she may well have been a governess or private tutor to young children.

She died in London in 1941, having spent the last part of her life in straitened circumstances, but her genius as a storyteller and educator will live on for as long as boys and girls continue to be able to open the pages of her enchanting and informative books.

Click here to read the entry for Henrietta Marshall, by Rosemary Mitchell, in the latest online edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.