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Born in Munday, Knox County, Texas, on January 26, 1905, Margaret Cousins was the first child of Walter Henry and Sue Margaret Reeves Cousins. Largely through the influence of her father, Margaret displayed an interest in pursuing a literary career at a young age. Upon graduating from Bryan Street High School in Dallas, Texas, in 1922, Cousins entered the University of Texas at Austin with a major in English literature.
When Cousins left the university in 1926, she found employment as an apprentice on her father's Southern Pharmaceutical Journal in Dallas, advancing to associate editor in 1930 and editor in 1935. Cousins moved to New York City in 1937 to work as assistant editor of the Pictorial Review. When the Pictorial Review ceased publication in 1939, she began work as a copy writer in the promotional department of Hearst Magazines, Inc. Over the next few years she read manuscripts on a free-lance basis and wrote fashion captions for Heart's Good Housekeeping, to which she had been a contributor as early as 1930, when her poem “Indian Summer” appeared in the November issue.
In 1942, Cousins became assistant editor of Good Housekeeping, advancing to managing editor three years later. According to Cousins, her primary duties at Good Housekeeping were, “reading, writing or correspondence, contacts, and production of ideas....” Cousins reached the height of her career as senior editor of Doubleday Publishing Company, a position which she held from 1961-73.
As an editor, Cousins perceived herself not only as a manager, but also as a role model for her reading public. Keenly aware of the power of the press in influencing public values, she sought to “live in a manner worthy of emulation.” This strong sense of moral imperative and vocational devotion was the driving force behind her efforts as an editor. In 1971, Cousins retired from Doubleday and went to work for Ladies' Home Journal as fiction editor. Her final retirement came in 1973, when she moved to San Antonio, Texas.
In her youth, Cousins had envisioned writing novels of social history, but the course of her career led her to write “simply to entertain.” As a writer, Cousins was known for her Romantic short stories, which appeared in many popular women's magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, McCall's, and Redbook. She produced well over two hundred in all. Some of her stories were adapted for radio, television theater, and film. “The Life of Lucy Gallant” became a full length motion picture starring Jane Wyman and Charlton Heston. In the non-fiction field, Cousins contributed a number of articles to various magazines and authored columns including “Bagdad on the Subway” and “The Innocent Bystander.”
Cousins also wrote and edited a number of books. Her first effort, a story entitled Uncle Edgar and the Reluctant Saint appeared in 1948. Her three juvenile books are Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia (1952), We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo (1958), and Thomas Alva Edison (1965). A Christmas Gift (1952) is a collection of Cousin's Christmas short stories. Her only mystery, Traffic with Evil, was published under the pseudonym Avery Johns in 1957. Love and Marriage (1961) is an anthology of stories which Cousins edited. Cousins served as a ghost writer for silent film star Colleen Moore's book, Colleen Moore's Doll House, and Margaret Truman's Souvenir (1956). She also edited Lyndon Baines Johnson's memoirs, The Vantage Point (1971), and Lady Bird Johnson's A White House Diary (1970).
Cousins involved herself actively in the Author's Guild of the Author's League of America as secretary and Magazine Committee chairperson. She spoke on occasion at conferences and meetings of various literary and educational organizations. Her career brought her into contact with many prominent literary figures and other notable personalities in the political and entertainment fields.
Both her home in Dobbs Ferry and her New York City apartment at 125 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065, were decorated by William Pahlmann in the 1950s.
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