Grandma Moses and the Gang - Looking for Books on Elders Who Made It
May 3, 2019 7:02 AM   Subscribe

What books are either biographical, autobiographical, historic or anecdotal detailing the lives of people over 50 who made a career change, who due to circumstance and who due to whim, and succeeded financially and in their craft in a huge way? Can be about anyone from 50 to 100. TIA
posted by watercarrier to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Laura Ingalls Wilder did some local writing, but did not publish the "Little House" books until she was in her 60s. It was definitely due to circumstances and whim--her more-famous daughter Rose had been trying for a while to get Laura's articles and memoir into a national market, and it was almost a throwaway gesture when she took some stories from the memoir and edited them to create "Little House in the Big Woods."
posted by Melismata at 7:51 AM on May 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nell Painter put out a book about getting an MFA in art at age 64. Previously she had been a history professor at Princeton and decided to pursue painting. I don't know about the succeeding financially part or doing it on a whim, but an interesting story nonetheless.
posted by loriginedumonde at 8:13 AM on May 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Julia Child! She was 50 when she wrote her first cookbook. Even though she did a lot of SUPER INTERESTING stuff beforehand, what's she's known for is from after 50 years old.

Vera Wang started in the fashion business at 40.

Harland (Colonel) Sanders franchised his first Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62.

Taikichiro Mori started working in real estate (from academia) at age 52, and became, for a time, the richest man in the world.
posted by xingcat at 8:15 AM on May 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Following! I had my first books published just before 50, and am working on a blog (possibly future podcast) on careers/passions followed after 50. (I am not qualifying myself as being on the level of those cited above...I am just beginning this journey.)

I’m part of a group pursuing this subject, the Order of the Acorn, on facebook. It’s not a very active group, but may be of interest to you.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 8:42 AM on May 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

James Tiptree Jr., the Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, by Julie Phillips.
posted by bq at 9:02 AM on May 3, 2019

After he retired from teaching at 57, Frank McCourt wrote his first memoir, Angela's Ashes, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. Angela's Ashes was made into a movie, and the two books he wrote afterwards were also best sellers.

There's a book called Tolstoy's Bicycle, which is arranged by ages and tells what various famous people did at that age. For instance, if you look up 67, you'll see what people accomplished at 67. It's a mixed bag for what you seem to be interested in, as many of the people have already been very successful and are just continuing their success.
posted by FencingGal at 11:36 AM on May 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wild Mary by Patrick Marnham is a biography of Mary Wesley, an English writer who published her first novel at the age of 70.
posted by Azara at 2:19 PM on May 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Looking up Mary Wesley brought me to the Wikipedia entry on Late bloomer which includes a lot of the kind of people you're interested in, though not necessarily their biographies. This reminded me of Mary Delany, an 18th century artist of amazing collages depicting flowers and plants. The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock is a biography of Mary Delany.

Another name that caught my eye was Richard Adams, who was still working as a civil servant at the age of 52 when his first novel Watership Down was published.
posted by Azara at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So amazing and fascinating. A whole new world opens up. The term *late bloomer* is completely a new concept for me. Thank you all very much. Anyone wishing to add, please do so.
posted by watercarrier at 2:02 AM on May 5, 2019

Does Harry Truman qualify?

From a previous comment I made, Truman:
couldn't get into the college he'd always dreamed of so he tried business school, but he only managed one semester. He started his own business when he was 35, but it went bankrupt. It took him 13 years to pay off the debts. He tried taking night classes in law when he was 40, but he dropped out. But around the same time, he got an administrative job with the courts. That led to other jobs with the county, and then with the state. When he was 50, he was elected to the US Senate, and when he was 61, he became President.
posted by kristi at 2:10 PM on May 7, 2019

I came across a colourful site about late bloomers, with quite a lot of information: Later Bloomer
posted by Azara at 11:51 PM on May 26, 2019

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