Noted humor writer Barbara Holland died of lung cancer this past September. But we found Ms. Holland in our archives, protecting the hunted and reminiscing about her childhood in her poetry. As a junior and senior at Woodrow Wilson High School in 1949 and 1950, her poems won top honors from the Scholastic Writing Awards.
Barbara Holland had six half-brothers and sisters in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but lived with relatives to attend high school in Washington, D.C. According to her high school bio, her chief interests were “convertibles,” and writing poems on the backs of envelopes – “usually with lipstick.” She confessed that passing P.E. might pose a challenge during her last year of school, but she hoped her future plans involved writing.
Shortly after graduation, Barbara Holland took a job at department store and eventually moved to Philadelphia to work as an advertising copywriter. She began to publish small articles and stories in magazines such as McCall’s, Seventeen, and Ladies’ Home Journal.
She would go on to publish over a dozen books including her best-selling memoir When All the World Was Young (2005), several children’s books, a biography of Katharine Hepburn and a history of dueling.
But if Holland’s love of writing followed her into adulthood, so did her dislike of gym class, which may have even inspired works such as Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (2005) and The Joy of Drinking (2007). In a recent interview with The Washington Post, she confessed she hoped that people would buy Endangered Pleasures for their mothers as Mother’s Day gifts. She added: “Writing is the only thing I was ever able to do, actually. I wrote my first novel when I was 5. I had to dictate it because I couldn’t print all those words.”