Catherine Wood Marshall LeSourd (1914-1983), inspirational author, was born Catherine Wood to a Presbyterian pastor and his wife in Johnson City, Tennessee. Raised in West Virginia and Mississippi, in 1932 she enrolled at Agnes Scott College in Georgia, graduating in 1936. Upon graduation she married the Rev. Peter Marshall, a Scotsman twelve years her senior who was the pastor of Atlanta’s Westminster Presbyterian Church.
In 1937 the couple moved to Washington, D.C. where Marshall became the pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and eventually became the chaplain of the U.S. Senate. After giving birth to a son she contracted tuberculosis in 1943 and spent nearly two years bedridden with the disease. In 1949 her husband died at the age of 46 from a massive heart attack. She collected a number of her late husband’s sermons into a collection entitled Mr. Jones, Meet the Master that became a best-seller in both religious and general trade bookstores. She followed this up with a biography of her husband, A Man Called Peter (1951), which stayed in the nation’s best-seller lists for three years and was made into a 1955 Twentieth Century Fox motion picture (starring Richard Todd and Jean Peters).
In the years that followed she continued to release briskly-selling collections of Peter Marshall’s sermons as well as inspirational prose such as To Live Again (1957) and Beyond Ourselves (1961). In 1959 she married Leonard LeSourd, editor of Norman Vincent Peale’s Guideposts magazine. In 1967 she released what would become her best-selling book, the historical novel Christy, based in part upon her grandmother’s recollections of teaching school in the mountains of Tennessee in the 1870s (the novel eventually became a CBS TV series in 1994 and 1995). Marshall was not only an inspirational writer, but an example–particularly as an author of fiction–to a generation of evangelical women authors. To date her books have sold an estimated 18 million copies.
For further reading see Catherine Marshall, Meeting God at Every Turn; A Personal Family Story (Chosen, 1980).