Betty Smith (b. Elisabeth Wehner on December 15, 1896 - d. 1972), was an American author, born in Brooklyn, New York to German immigrants. She grew up poor in Williamsburg. These experiences served as the framework to her first novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which was published in 1943.
Having married early George H. E. Smith, a fellow Brooklynite, she moved with him to Ann Arbor, Michigan, while he pursued his law degree at the University of Michigan. At this time, she gave birth to two girls and waited until they were in school so she could complete her higher education. Although Smith had not finished high school, the university allowed her to enroll in classes anyway. There she honed her skills in journalism, literature, writing, and drama, as she was a student in the classes of Professor Kenneth Thorpe Rowe.
In 1938 she divorced her George Smith and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she married Joseph Jones in 1943. It was at this time that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published. Throughout her life, Smith worked as a dramatist, receiving many awards and fellowships including the Rockefeller Fellowship, the Dramatists Guild Fellowship, and the Avery Hopkins Award for her work in drama.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn traces the physical and emotional development into womanhood of Francie Nolan (born in 1901). The book begins when Francie is eleven years old in 1912 and ends when she is sixteen and a half, in 1918.
Smith published three other books:
While they sold reasonably well, placing themselves on the top 10 on the bestsellers' list, they were never able to surpass A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.