Dorothy Elmhisrt Straight, born on May 25, 1958, in Washington D.C. wrote a book at the age of only four, making her the youngest female published author. She holds a Guinness world record for it.
The book is called “How the World Began” and can still be bought on Amazon as a used or collectible hardcover edition.
The book is an answer to a question posed by her mother: “Who made the world?”. She wrote and illustrated it in 1962 and it was published in 1964, two years later.
Dorothy comes from a very rich and prominent family founded by John Whitney, who came to America in 1635 from London, England.
Dorothy was named after her grandmother, Dorothy Payne Whitney, who was known as a philanthropist and social activist.
Her father, Michael Whitney Straight, was a novelist and patron of the arts — and interestingly a spy for the notorious KGB.
Her mother was Belinda C. Straight (née Crompton) a psychiatrist and famous civil rights activist. She was an owner and founder of a private practice in Washington D.C, where according to the Boston Globe she specialized in treating victims of sexual abuse.
Coming from a family inclined towards writing and art, Dorothy was exposed to it from early age. The fact that her mother is a psychologist could explain the question that she asked her.
Additionally, Kirkus Reviews reports “When she was 4 years old, a pre-kindergarten pupil, her school put on a production of Noye’s Fludde in the Benjamin Britten adaptation. This is thought to be responsible for some of her ideas in her book.”
When her mother asked her the question about the creator of the world, firstly she did not give any answer. However, after mother’s insistence, Dorothy answered in writing and drawing, creating the book that would give her a special place in human history.
According to Kirkus Review, she finished her whole book in only one evening.
After seeing what their daughter had made, her parents were so thrilled that they sent it to Pantheon Books who published it. As Kirkus Review states: “Her concept of God’s activities during the Creation are nothing if not complete — after inventing the jungle and its wild animals, he went on to pins and thread, birds and bees.” This book offers us a complete story of Genesis from a child’s perspective.
One of the only sources offering more information on Dorothy and her achievement is The New York Times, which has published a digitized version of an article from September 12, 1964, one day after publication, with the headline “Author, 6, Celebrates Her First Book.”
The biggest mystery shared in the article is the fact that her parents never told her the story of how the world was made.
New York Times reports: “We were amazed at the different concepts Dorothy put into the book,” her father, Michael Straight, added. “At the end of the story, she said ‘and then God went to sleep, and slept for 40 whole days,’ and she illustrated it with a picture of God in bed wearing yellow pajamas.”
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Unfortunately, Dorothy did not continue writing later in life. Her first book remains her last, but this does not make her any less important of a figure.