Annie Laurie Williams

I was going through some papers today and came across this article from Collier's magazine, from the January 4, 1941 issue written by Ruth Seinfel.

The picture shown is my great-aunt, Annie Laurie Williams. In 1929 Annie Laurie founded her firm in NYC and began her career as a Literary Representative.

I'm still in awe of the tenacious business woman she was and the level of success she achieved in a time when woman weren't common entities in the work force. In the article the writer describes Annie Laurie as "not very tall, pleasingly plump, golden-haired and blue-eyed."

And in regards to her business savvy the author writes, "In a knock-down and drag-out business conference with contracts on the table, she is that thorn in a producer's side, the agent who knows more about the author's rights than the author does." Ruth Seinfel goes on to say, "She has a weakness for the hard ones, and she is the only one who is not surprised when they turn out well, which they do a remarkable number of times."

Annie Laurie sold many classics to the film industry. Some titles were, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, but her most memorable sale (although not her most lucritive one, as Selznick was the only bidder) was the sale of Gone With the Wind. The story sold for half of the original asking price but is one she believed in and wouldn't take no for an answer. I, for one, am glad she didn't.

But the Annie Laurie Williams I remember, as I was only ten when she passed away, was a very different one. She was my grandmother's fun, crazy sister who read my palm, told my fortune, drank lots of tea, and loved to dance. She was a vegetarian and I enjoyed watching the servers puzzled expression at restaurants when she'd order a cheeseburger without the meat. She was the one who bought the house in Connecticut where my cousins and I spent our summers together. I can still see her at the Stone House in her pink-checked dress, which she always wore when she stayed for the weekends, standing in the doorway dancing to a song someone played on the piano.

So I guess Annie Laurie was a lot of things to a lot of people. She was the big sister who brought her three younger sisters up to New York from Texas. She was the one who introduced my grandparents to one another. She gave her two sisters a job in her firm. But for me, because of her generous spirit and her love for her family, she was the reason our family was as close as we were and still are, because she gave us all the Stone House where we could spend time together.


  1. Gosh Paula, what an awesome story and a fabulous connection to the literary world. She sold the film rights to Gone with the Wind??? Obviously you've got good genes! :) Your aunt would be so proud to know the direction you've chosen. I'm sure you will be every bit as successful as her.

  2. Kiki,
    I don't know about that but thanks for your vote of confidence. I was too young to appreciate her professional career when she was alive. What I wouldn't give to talk with her now over a pot of tea.

  3. Paula, your Great Aunt sounds like an amazing person! How many women agents even existed when she was representing Steinbeck and Margaret Mitchell? The Stone House sounds wonderful as well. I sense a story ...

  4. I had the honor of meeting Annie Laurie Williams in late May of 1971 while on a visit to NYC with several of my friends who were students at East Texas State University in Commerce, TX. Earlier that month, while involved in a production of Truman Capote's "The Grass Harp", we were attempting to contact Mr. Capote and got as far as his literary agent, Ms. Williams. As we chatted with her, she informed us that she was born and raised in my hometown of Denison, TX and upon learning we were planning a trip to NYC, she invited us to visit her at her office. Filled with excitement we were invited into her office when she asked which one of us was from Denison. Raising my hand and waving it like a 1st grader who knew the correct answer, she replied "That tacky little town!". I was crushed but she couldn't have been more welcoming. It was only later (I was only 20 years old) that I knew the truth and wisdom of her remark. It is a memory I shall always remember. Do you have any idea of where her office was located? I only remember it was in midtown Manhattan. I visit NYC often and have wondered where it was.

  5. Scott,
    What a wonderful story!! I've had a few people respond to this blog post with stories of meeting my aunt to share ways in which she either inspired or humored them. Thank you so much for sharing!! I can hear her saying that to you and marveling at how far you both came, from small town Texas all the way to NYC.

    I am looking into the address for you and will post it when I have it. Feel free to email me personally if you'd rather.


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