Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on Sept. 15, 1890, in Torquay, England, the youngest of three children. Her father, Frederick, was an outgoing man with an independent income. Her mother Clara was shy, and Agatha resembled her greatly in personality. Agatha taught herself to read by the age of 5. She was educated through a mixture of tutors, part-time schooling and French finishing schools. At age 16 Agatha traveled to Paris where she trained as a singer and pianist, although her stage fright prevented her from pursuing a musical career.
At age 11, Agatha’s father passed away and she became even closer to her mother. Clara became restless without her husband and began to travel, at times taking Agatha with her; these early trips began Agatha’s lifelong love of travel.
After a two-year tempestuous romance, Agatha married a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, Archibald Christie, on Christmas Eve of 1914. The next day Archie returned to WWI. Alone in Torquay, Agatha volunteered at the dispensary of the Red Cross Hospital and completed the examination of the Society of Apothecaries. Later in life Agatha applied her extensive knowledge of medicine and poisons to her stories, the first of which was the detective novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), which introduced the character Hercule Poirot. The Belgian detective Poirot later appeared in Christie’s first play Black Coffee (1930) as well as 33 novels and 65 short stories.
Agatha and her husband divorced in 1928, but she retained his last name and custody of their only child, Rosalind. In 1930 she married Max Mallowan, an archeologist she met on a trip to Mesopotamia. She accompanied Max on his annual archeological expeditions for nearly 30 years, taking along a portable typewriter.
Agatha Christie wrote more than a dozen plays and 79 novels, many of which became the basis for numerous radio, stage, film and television programs. She also wrote two volumes of autobiography and, under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, six romance novels. Among her most popular plays are And Then There Were None; Appointment with Death; Spider’s Web; and The Mousetrap, the longest continuously running play in history, playing in London’s West End since 1952 celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Christie’s matchless ingenuity in contriving plots, sustaining suspense, and her brisk, unsentimental humor has contributed to her prodigious international success and audience appeal. She is second only to Shakespeare as the most translated writer in the English language.
Christie won the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1956 and became president of the Detection Club in 1958. Christie received an Order of Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1971.
Dame Agatha Christie died in her sleep on Jan. 12, 1976, at the age of 85. On the night of her death, The Mousetrap was giving its 9,612th performance.