E. Cavanna Harrison; Prolific U.S. Writer

From Associated Press

American writer Elizabeth Cavanna Harrison, who wrote more than 80 romances, mysteries and children’s books in a 45-year career, has died. She was 92.

Harrison died Monday at her home in the French town of Vezelay, said her son Stephen Cavanna Headley.

Most of Harrison’s books were written under her maiden name, Betty Cavanna. She also used the pen names Betsy Allen and Elizabeth Headley.

Her stories detailed the difficulties of adolescence and appealed to generations of teenage girls. In early works such as “Going on Sixteen” (1945) and “A Girl Can Dream” (1947), characters confronted loneliness, sibling rivalries and tense mother-daughter relationships.


“I learned more from Betty than she did from me,” Connie C. Epstein, one of Harrison’s editors at William Morrow in New York told Ann Blackman, a family friend and writer for Time magazine.

“She could pull the plot together and knew what subjects interested her readers. Her subject matter expanded as her life expanded,” Epstein said.

Harrison wrote a nonfiction series called “Around the World,” based on young people she met in the Caribbean, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. She often traveled with her late second husband, George Russell Harrison, a dean of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whom she married in 1957.

In the 1970s, Harrison turned to mystery writing.


Two of her mysteries--"Spice Island Mystery (1970) and “The Ghost of Ballyhooly” (1972)--were runners-up for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Her last book, “Banner Year,” was published in 1987.

Born in Camden, N.J., Harrison contracted polio as a child and it left her with a slight limp. After graduating from Douglass College, the women’s branch of Rutgers University, in 1929, she worked as a news reporter and for a publishing house while writing short stories at night. She turned to writing full time in 1941.

Harrison is survived by her son from her first marriage.

Services were planned for Thursday in Vezelay, in France’s Burgundy region, where Harrison moved two years ago. She will be buried in a family plot at the Vezelay cemetery.