Name at birth: Helen Lyndon Goff
P.L. Travers was the author of Mary Poppins and the seven sequels that appeared between 1934 and 1989. Born Helen Lyndon Goff in Australia, she changed her name to Pamela Lyndon Travers as an aspiring actress. She went to England in 1924, where she published travel articles and poems and tracked down famous Irish poets who helped her career, including W.B. Yeats and AE (George William Russell). Mary Poppins, the tale of a stern and magical nanny, was published in 1934 and was enough of a favorite that it prompted an immediate sequel, Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935). By the mid-1940s, Walt Disney was calling, trying to buy the movie rights. Travers refused for more than fifteen years, finally agreeing to $100,000 and five percent of the gross, with a hand in script approval. The arrangement was famously acrimonious, and Travers made no secret that she hated the popular 1964 film (starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke). She made a lot of money from the movie, however, and went on to write four more Mary Poppins books. Travers has been described as an eccentric, unreliable about her own past and with an oddball interest in mysticism and the occult (for many years she was a follower of the spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff). Her other books include Mary Poppins in the Park (1952), Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982), I Go by Sea, I Go by Land (1941) and the non-fiction What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story (1989).