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Dorothy Gilman

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Dorothy Gilman

Dorothy Gilman
Born Dorothy Edith Gilman
(1923-06-25)June 25, 1923
New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.
Died February 2, 2012(2012-02-02) (aged 88)
Rye Brook, New York, U.S.
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Notable works The Mrs. Pollifax series

Dorothy Edith Gilman (June 25, 1923 – February 2, 2012) was an American writer. She is best known for the Mrs. Pollifax series. Emily Pollifax, her heroine, became a spy in her 60s and is very likely the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the local garden club.[1]


Dorothy Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to minister James Bruce and Essa (Starkweather) Gilman. She started writing when she was 9. At 11, she competed against 10- to 16-year-olds in a story contest and won first place. Planning to write and illustrate books for children, she attended Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 1940–1945.[2] She married teacher Edgar A. Butters, Jr. September 15, 1945; they divorced in 1965. The couple had two children, Christopher and Jonathan. Gilman attended the University of Pennsylvania 1963–1964.[1] She was Unitarian.[3]

Gilman worked as an art teacher and telephone operator before becoming an author. She wrote children’s stories for more than ten years under the name Dorothy Gilman Butters and then began writing adult novels about Mrs. Pollifax, a retired grandmother who becomes a CIA agent. The Mrs. Pollifax series made Gilman famous.[2]

Gilman's life is strongly reflected in her writing. She traveled extensively, and her travels became the settings for her Mrs. Pollifax books. In the 1970s, she moved to a property in a small town in Nova Scotia where she grew most of her own vegetables and herbs. This period was the focus of her memoir, A New Kind of Country. Her knowledge of medicinal herbs informed several of her stories, including A Nun in the Closet and Thale's Folly. Thale's Folly is one of her few books featuring a male protagonist; most of her books feature strong women having adventures around the world. In addition to Nova Scotia, Gilman spent much of her life in Connecticut, Maine, and New Mexico.[2]

In 2010 Gilman was awarded the annual Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.[4]

In 2012, she died at age 88 of complications of Alzheimer's disease.[1]


As Dorothy Gilman Butters

Under her married name, Dorothy Gilman Butters, she began writing books for young people in the late 1940s:

  • Enchanted Caravan (1949) (ASIN B0006ary4y)
  • Carnival Gypsy (1950) (ASIN B000jkb0oq)
  • Ragamuffin Alley (1951) (ASIN B0006astpm)
  • The Calico Year (1953) (ASIN B000gabx14)
  • Four Party Line (1954) (ASIN B001k36208)
  • Papa Dolphin’s Table (1955) (ASIN B000moc1qk)
  • Girl in Buckskin (1956) (ISBN 978-0-449-70380-9)
  • Heartbreak Street (1958) (ASIN B00209ktic)
  • Witch’s Silver (1959) (ASIN B0006avz6m)
  • Masquerade (1961) (ASIN B0006ax1im)
  • Heart’s Design (Masquerade Republished) (1963) (ASIN B000ts8al4)
  • Ten Leagues to Boston Town (1963) (ASIN B0006ay2v2)
  • The Bells of Freedom (1963) (ASIN B001u11ad4)

She also contributed to Good Housekeeping, Jack and Jill, Redbook, Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, The Writer, and other magazines.

She also contributed a chapter to the book, On Creative Writing (1964)

The Mrs. Pollifax series

She began writing as Dorothy Gilman for her first Mrs. Pollifax book. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax(1966) was the first in what would be a 14-book series. The heroine, the eccentric Emily Pollifax, is a 60-ish bored garden-clubbing grandmother and widow who became a part-time CIA agent. The series, which ended in 2000 with Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled, consists of fast-paced escapades filled with danger and intrigue in Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, China, Morocco, Zambia, Sicily, and elsewhere[5] The character was adapted in the 1971 film Mrs. Pollifax-Spy.

  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (1966) (ISBN 978-0-449-20828-1)
  • The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (1970) (ISBN 978-0-449-20912-7)
  • The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (1971) (ISBN 978-0-449-21523-4)
  • A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax (1973) (ISBN 978-0-449-20864-9)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari (1977) (ISBN 978-0-449-21524-1)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station (1983) (ISBN 978-0-449-20840-3)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha (1985) (ISBN 978-0-449-20983-7)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle (1988) (ISBN 978-0-449-21515-9)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish (1990) (ISBN 978-0-449-14760-3)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (1993) (ISBN 978-0-449-14905-8)
  • Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (1995) (ISBN 978-0-449-14956-0)
  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer (1996) (ISBN 978-0-449-15004-7)
  • Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (1997) (ISBN 978-0-449-18336-6)
  • Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled (2000) (ISBN 978-0-449-00670-2)

Other Books

Additional books she wrote under the name Dorothy Gilman:

  • Uncertain Voyage (1967) (ISBN 978-0-449-21628-6)
  • Clairvoyant Countess (1975) (ISBN 978-0-449-21318-6)
  • A Nun in the Closet (1975) (ISBN 978-0-449-21167-0)
  • A New Kind of Country (1978) (reissued by Fawcett in 1989) (ISBN 978-0-449-21627-9); (memoir), memoir of her life in a Nova Scotia village
  • The Tightrope Walker (1979) (ISBN 978-0-449-21177-9)
  • The Maze in the Heart of the Castle (1983) (ISBN 978-0-449-70398-4)
  • Incident at Badamya (1989) (ISBN 978-0-449-21721-4)
  • Caravan (1992) (ISBN 978-0-345-49237-1)
  • Thale's Folly (1999) (ISBN 978-0-449-00365-7)
  • Kaleidoscope (2002) (ISBN 978-0-345-44820-0)

Film/TV adaptations

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax was filmed by United Artists in 1970 as Mrs. Pollifax-Spy starring Rosalind Russell. Angela Lansbury starred in the made-for-TV movie The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax in 1999.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d by Margalit Fox, February 3, 2012Dorothy Gilman, ‘Mrs. Pollifax’ Novelist, Dies at 88The New York Times — Books,
  2. ^ a b c { {New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, 14.4 (March–April 2007): 49(1)} }
  3. ^ { {city web|url=|title=Gilman Dorothy 1923-|accessdate=2 October 2014} }
  4. ^ "2010 GM Ravens". 9 December 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  5. ^ by Margalit Fox | New York Times, February 06, 2012Dorothy Gilman, at 88; created Mrs. Pollifax spy novelsThe Boston Globe —


  • Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale Fan website
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