Mary Roberts Rinehart - known as "The American Agatha Christie" - was born in 1876 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. She started writing as a way to earn income after a heavy stock market loss in 1903. She wrote The Circular Staircase, her first novel, in 1908. The book sold over a million copies and propelled Rinehart to national fame.
A regular contributor to the Saturday Evening Post, Rinehart served as the first woman war correspondent to the Belgian front during WWI. In 1929, she helped her sons found the publishing house Farrar & Rinehart, serving as its director. In hundreds of short stories, Rinehart developed enduring series characters like Letitia (Tish) Carberry and Nurse-Detective Hilda Adams (Miss Pinkerton). She is credited with inventing the phrase "The Butler Did It" from her novel The Door (1930), and many of her books and plays were adapted into movies, including I Take This Woman starring Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard (1931).
Recognizing her long contribution to the mystery field, The Mystery Writers of America awarded Mary Roberts Rinehart a Special Edgar Award in 1954. She died on September 22, 1958, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.