Miriam Allen deFord

Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975) was a prolific writer in the mystery, science fiction and fantasy, and true crime fields. She was first published at the age of twelve, and by fourteen was already making her mark in the early feminist movement as a campaigner and disseminator of birth control information to underprivileged women, first in her native Philadelphia and later, in Boston, New York, and the San Francisco area. DeFord, along with her first husband, Maynard Shipley, were active against the rising tides of anti-evolution fights in the 1920s. She also worked for Charles Fort, the famed researcher into paranormal phenomena, and for a time for the magazine Humanist. She was one of the first female insurance claims adjusters, and was actively involved in civil rights organizations, including the ACLU.

Her science fiction and fantasy stories, with themes of alienation and changing sexual roles, were largely published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction when Anthony Boucher — also the mystery critic for the New York Times and a prolific writer in his own right — was editor, and later collected in Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971). DeFord’s many mystery short stories, which largely appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, were collected in The Theme Is Murder (1967). She also won an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime for The Overbury Affair (1960), on the murder of Thomas Overbury during the seventeenth-century reign of King James I in England, and garnered further acclaim for The Real Bonnie and Clyde (1968), a corrective account of the notorious outlaw couple published a year after the commercially successful film was released. DeFord was also an active editor of anthologies, how-to manuals, and practical guides for writers. She died in San Francisco’s Ambassador Hotel, where she made her home, in 1975.

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