Patricia Clapp, Author

Reading a book as a struggling author, I find myself intrigued by the story of the writer, particularly when the book in question haunts me over time. And so that is what happened with Patricia Clapp.

Patricia Clapp Cone 1912-2003.
Patricia Clapp Cone 1912-2003.

Dear Ms. Clapp – have you any idea what you started? No? Back in the late 1970s, I first read (and re-read) a book whose characters would not leave my head. I thought of them in class, while walking home – any time I should have been doing something else. This month, I re-read that book, titled Jane-Emily. It’s pink cover is badly worn and it’s moved from one state to another, but its haunts me all the same.

Patricia Clapp was born on June 9, 1912 in Boston. She attended Columbia University School of Journalism for two years and married Edward della Torre Cone in 1933.

The couple had three children together, and she was asked to produce a play for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. So, she wrote a play, which led to her writing several plays for community theater groups. In 1956, she submitted one to a publisher who accepted it.

From her home in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, she worked with the community theater there for more than 40 years, directing and writing numerous children’s, young adult’s and adult plays.

A full list of her plays could not be found, but one of her plays, titled The Invisible Dragon was an interactive play for children from 3-10 years of age while several others made up a series of Christmas plays, such as Santa Clause Calling the North Pole, in which Santa gives Mrs. Claus an unusual gift which has more meaning than first revealed, and The Christmas Parade. These, along with her The Mudcake Princess are still performed in theaters.

After receiving a genealogy of her family, Clapp discovered that an ancestor, Constance Hopkins came over on the Mayflower. Intending to write a play about Hopkins’s life, the author opted instead to write her ancestor’s story as a diary or journal, and, in 1968 at 56 years of age, she published her first book, Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth, which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and was also a runner-up for the National Book Award. Like her subsequent books, it was an American historical as seen through the eyes of girls and young women.

The following year, she published Jane-Emily a supernatural fantasy set in 1912 and, though the story centered on a nine-year-old, it’s told from the perspective of her young adult aunt, an aspect that allowed for an innocent depiction of romance as well. Thus this became the first romance I read, albeit told appropriately for children of eight or nine years, which was my age when I first read it. The book (one of my favorites of all time!) was a nominee for the 1971 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Award.

Other works by Clapp include The King of the Dollhouse and Dr. Elizabeth: The Story of the First Woman Doctor (1974); I’m Deborah Sampson: A Soldier in the War of the Revolution (1977); the Civil War-era The Tamarack Tree (1986) and Witches’ Children (1987).

A grandmother and great-grandmother, she died in 2003.

1. University of Southern Mississippi Libraries de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection which holds a transcript of Jane-Emily donated by Ms. Clapp in 1977.
4. USA Library of Congress
5. Glenn Falls Community Theater web site, Glenn Falls, NY
6. Studio Players web site, Studio Players of Montclair, NJ
7. Patricia Clapp Cone Biography,

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