About: Mary Noel Streatfeild, known as Noel Streatfeild, was an author best known and loved for her children's books, including Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes. She was born on Christmas Eve, 1895, the daughter of William Champion Streatfeild and Janet Venn and the second of six children to be born to the couple. Sister Ruth was the oldest, after Noel came Barbara, William ('Bill'), Joyce (who died of TB prior to her second birthday) and Richenda. Ruth and Noel attended Hastings and St. Leonard's Ladies' College in 1910. Upon adulthood, she began theater work, and spent approximately 10 years in the theater.
During the Great War, in 1915 Noel worked firstly as a volunteer in a soldier's hospital kitchen near Eastbourne Vicarage and later produced two plays with her sister Ruth. When things took a turn for the worse on the Front in 1916 she moved to London and obtained a job making munitions in Woolwich Arsenal. At the end of the war in January 1919, Noel enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Art (later Royal Academy) in London.
In 1930, she began writing her first adult novel, The Whicharts, which was published in 1931. In June 1932, she was elected to membership of PEN. Early in 1936, Mabel Carey, children's editor of J. M. Dent and Sons, asks Noel to write a children's story about the theatre, which led to Noel completing Ballet Shoes in mid-1936. In 28 September 1936, when Ballet Shoes was published, it became an immediate best seller.
According to Angela Bull, Ballet Shoes was a reworked version of The Whicharts. Elder sister Ruth Gervis illustrated the book, which was published on the 28th September, 1936. At the time, the plot and general 'attitude' of the book was highly original, and destined to provide an outline for countless other ballet books down the years until this day. The first known book to be set at a stage school, the first ballet story to be set in London, the first to feature upper middle class society, the first to show the limits of amateurism and possibly the first to show children as self-reliant, able to survive without running to grownups when things went wrong.
In 1937, Noel traveled with Bertram Mills Circus to research The Circus is Coming (also known as Circus Shoes). She won the Carnegie gold medal in February 1939 for this book. In 1940, World War II began, and Noel began war-related work from 1940-1945. During this time, she wrote four adult novels, five children's books, nine romances, and innumerable articles and short stories. On May 10th, 1941, her flat was destroyed by a bomb. Shortly after WWII is over, in 1947, Noel traveled to America to research film studios for her book The Painted Garden. In 1949, she began delivering lectures on children's books. Between 1949 and 1953, her plays, The Bell Family radio serials played on the Children's Hour and were frequently voted top play of the year.
Early in 1960s, she decided to stop writing adult novels, but did write some autobiographical novels, such as A Vicarage Family in 1963. She also had written 12 romance novels under the pen name "Susan Scarlett." Her children's books number at least 58 titles. From July to December 1979, she suffered a series of small strokes and moved into a nursing home. In 1983, she received the honor Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). On 11 September 1986, she passed away in a nursing home.