Molly Cone

b. 1918

A prolific and well-loved author, Molly Cone has penned numerous children’s and young adults’ books, travel articles, educational materials, and a history of the Jews in Washington State. Born in 1918 in Tacoma to Latvian emigrants, Molly Cone grew up in a close-knit family steeped in Jewish traditions. In high school, she edited the school paper, made her first writing sale—a sales letter for a local business college—and, in her senior year, met Gerald (Jerry) Cone, older brother of her brother Floyd's best friend. After graduation, Molly attended the University of Washington and worked at various jobs, mostly writing advertising copy. She and Jerry Cone married on September 9, 1939; their oldest daughter, Susan, was born in 1941, followed by son Gary (1946) and daughter Ellen (1956).  They moved to Seattle, where they raised their family and became founding members of Temple Beth Am, a reform synagogue in Northeast Seattle. She worked various writing jobs during the war. When her husband returned from service, they started a business producing direct-mail pieces, later expanding into a general printing firm. Her first stories were published in children's magazines, and her first book, Only Jane, was published in 1960. Throughout her career, she published over forty children's books. The New York Times selected "Mishmash," the first in her series of seven books about a far too friendly dog, as one of the 100 best children's books. Her book "Come Back, Salmon" garnered eight awards. As a writer, Molly’s narrative often focuses on human communication; both talking and silence organize the ways we think about the world and each other. Jerry and Molly were enthusiastic travelers.  Molly passed away on March 23, 2016.

Scope and Content Note

Cone details her family's immigration history and earliest memories growing up in Tacoma, Washington, memories that would inspire many of her later works as a children's book writer.  Molly explains there were two groups of Jews in Tacoma, the Eastern European and Reform Central Europeans, but that Jews were very much a minority where she grew up. She always felt different from her neighbors and peers.  Molly describes her early education, involvement in the school newspaper, and being awarded a journalism award in high school.  She met her husband Gary after graduating from high school, and they were married in 1939 and moved to Seattle.  During her marriage, Molly began her writing career in earnest and published several short stories.  Molly describes raising her children – her eldest was born fifteen years before her youngest – and her memories of the Jewish holidays they celebrated at Temple Beth Am and home.   Molly traces her career paths, creative process, and her many books inspired by real-life experiences.  She explains that her work was "testimony to what [she] had always felt, that being Jewish is woven into your life. It’s just part of your life.”  In the second interview session, Molly talks in great detail about her family life and extended family members, their traditions, the food they made, how they celebrated the Jewish holidays, and what they did for fun.  She mentions her passion for travel and her many trips to Israel on sponsored study tours and visiting friends throughout her life.

 

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Molly Cone. Interviewed by Roz Borsntein. 22 May 2001, 29 May 2001. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/cone-molly>.

Oral History of Molly Cone by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.