Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Marilyn Holt  

Pen Name: Marilyn Irvin Holt


Audience: Children; Children;

Born: 1949 in Norris City, Illinois

-- Marilyn Holt on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Marilyn is a native of Eldorado, Illinois. She reveived degrees from Eastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Springfield, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Holt is former director of publications at the Kansas Historical Society and has served as a research consultant for the PBS ''American Experience'' series. She is author of ''The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America'' and ''Linoleum, Better Babies, and the Modern Farm Woman, 1890–1930'' and of ''Indian Orphanages'' which received the Oklahoma Historical Society's Book of the Year Award in 2001 and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Center for the Book's award for best non-fiction. ''Indian Orphanages'' is one of the first book lengh studies of the evolustion of the orphanage system in Native American culture. She also edited a volume devoted to twentieth-century teenagers' diaries and journals.Today Marilyn Holt is an Independant Historian who consults on Kansas History.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America (Bison Book)
ISBN: 0803272650

Bison Books. 1994

"From 1850 to 1930 America witnessed a unique emigration and resettlement of at least 200,000 children and several thousand adults, primarily from the East Coast to the West. This 'placing out,' an attempt to find homes for the urban poor, was best known by the 'orphan trains' that carried the children. Holt carefully analyzes the system, initially instituted by the New York Children's Aid Society in 1853, tracking its imitators as well as the reasons for its creation and demise. She captures the children's perspective with the judicious use of oral histories, institutional records, and newspaper accounts. This well-written volume sheds new light on the multifaceted experience of children's immigration, changing concepts of welfare, and Western expansion. It is good, scholarly social history."-Library Journal Marilyn Irvin Holt, former director of publications at the Kansas State Historical Society is a freelance editor, writer, and researcher and teaches historical editing at the University of Kansas.

Model Ts, Pep Chapels, and a Wolf at the Door: Kansas Teenagers, 1900-1941
ISBN: 0936352116

Univ of Kansas. 1995

Signed by author (not confirmed). Dedicated: "To Alma Jane Best Wishes, Marilyn Irvin Holt" Rededicated: "From Tim and Martha Christmas 1994"

Children of the Western Plains: The Nineteenth-Century Experience (American Childhoods Series)
ISBN: 1566635403

Ivan R. Dee. 2003

On December 7, 1828, Lewis Bissell Dougherty was born at Cantonment Leavenworth, the military post of the Missouri River. For the rest of his life, Dougherty carried a footnote to his name: he was one of the first white children to be born in Kansas. These "first" children came to be celebrated as white America's first steps onto the Western frontier. In Children of the Western Plains, Marilyn Holt rescues the experience of children from the usual adult perspectives on Western history. Her book is the first in a new series that will emphasize the experience of children during different times and at different locales in the American past. The books will be abundantly illustrated with black-and-white photographs and drawings. They will take advantage of primary source materials, reminiscences, documents, and secondary works in telling the story of American children throughout the nation's history. In Ms. Holt's book, she explores what life was like for youngsters who lived on the Great Plains in nineteenth-century frontier life. She is especially interested in how they were raised, how they were influenced by their environment, and what sort of independence they experienced while growing up. Her chapters address a breadth of experiences and perceptions: why families came to the Great Plains and where they decided to settle how families and communities were organized for education, work, and play how health care, accidents, and mortality affected childhoods and what children experienced outside the home. As much as possible, she lets the children speak for themselves. This is their story. With 25 black-and-white photographs.

Indian Orphanages
ISBN: 0700613633

University Press of Kansas. 2001

With their deep tradition of tribal and kinship ties, Native Americans had lived for centuries with little use for the concept of an unwanted child. But besieged by reservation life and boarding school acculturation, many tribes—with the encouragement of whites—came to accept the need for orphanages.

The first book to focus exclusively on this subject, Marilyn Holt's study interweaves Indian history, educational history, family history, and child welfare policy to tell the story of Indian orphanages within the larger context of the orphan asylum in America. She relates the history of these orphanages and the cultural factors that produced and sustained them, shows how orphans became a part of native experience after Euro-American contact, and explores the manner in which Indian societies have addressed the issue of child dependency.

Holt examines in depth a number of orphanages from the 1850s to1940s—particularly among the "Five Civilized Tribes" in Oklahoma, as well as among the Seneca in New York and the Ojibway and Sioux in South Dakota. She shows how such factors as disease, federal policies during the Civil War, and economic depression contributed to their establishment and tells how white social workers and educational reformers helped undermine native culture by supporting such institutions. She also explains how orphanages differed from boarding schools by being either tribally supported or funded by religious groups, and how they fit into social welfare programs established by federal and state policies.

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 overturned years of acculturation policy by allowing Native Americans to finally reclaim their children, and Holt helps readers to better understand the importance of that legislation in the wake of one of the more unfortunate episodes in the clash of white and Indian cultures.

Linoleum, Better Babies, and the Modern Farm Woman, 1890-1930
ISBN: 0803224362

University of Nebraska Press. 2006

The Progressive Era, falling between the conspicuous materialism of the Gay Nineties and the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, promoted a vision of America united by an emphasis on science and progressive reform. The zeal to modernize business, government, and social relations extended to farm families and the ways women defined their roles.
In this study of the expert advice offered by the domestic-economy movement, Marilyn Irvin Holt argues that women were not passive receptors of these views. Seeing their place in agriculture as multifaceted and important, they eagerly accepted improved education and many modern appliances but often rejected suggestions that conflicted with their own views of the rewards and values of farm life. Drawing on a wide range of sources—government surveys, expert testimony, and contemporary farm journals—many presenting accounts in farm women’s own words, Holt carefully contrasts the goals of reformers with those of farm families. Anyone seeking a better understanding of the role of women in agriculture will find this a rewarding book.

Mamie Doud Eisenhower: The General's First Lady (Modern First Ladies)
ISBN: 0700615393

University Press of Kansas. 2007

It was fitting for a soldier's wife to make curtains out of military-surplus parachutes. That they would hang in the White House made little difference.

Mamie Doud Eisenhower was a president's wife who seemed to most Americans like the friend next door. She gave us "Mamie pink" and "Mamie bangs" but has stood in the shadows of first ladies who followed. Yet she accomplished more than even her own contemporaries noticed, and her popularity not only enhanced her husband's presidency but also put a distinctive stamp on the role of first lady.

This first scholarly biography of Mamie Eisenhower draws on original sources in the Eisenhower Library to paint a realistic and captivating portrait. Marilyn Irvin Holt places her in the context of her time, showing that she was a perfect first lady for the fifties—a stylish grandmother who doted on her family and considered her job to be creating a home life that eased her husband's work tensions. But Holt shows that besides being steadfastly devoted to Ike, Mamie Eisenhower employed her own "hidden hand" to boost his image.

Holt recaptures the winning personality that made Mrs. Eisenhower an important part of both her husband's success and her cultural milieu, and relates how her experience as an army wife-with overseas postings, acquaintance with heads of state, and experience as an accomplished hostess-better prepared her for the White House. Holt reveals that there was much more to Mamie Eisenhower than the housewife she described herself as, showing us instead a resourceful first lady who ran the executive mansion like an army sergeant, relished charity work, and promoted cultural events.

As an agent for change, Mamie Eisenhower not only entertained foreign dignitaries but also invited African Americans to the White House when tensions over civil rights were mounting. Holt shares other behind-the-scenes stories of the first lady flying in the face of social and political expectations during the McCarthy era, and also debunks prevailing notions of animosity with Pat Nixon.

Although Ike's reputation has rebounded in recent years, Mamie's has remained in the shadows. Holt convincingly shows that there was far more to this neglected first lady than she has received credit for.


  • ''Indian Orphanages'' received the Oklahoma Historical Society's Book of the Year Award in 2001 and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Center for the Book's award for best non-fiction.
  • Marilyn was honored at the 2004 Illinois Authors Book Fair sponsored by the Illinois Center for the Book and the Illinois State Library in Springfield, Illinois.

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