Clarissa Fairchild Cushman, 91, a novelist and editor and a resident of the Washington area since 1958, died of congestive heart failure Monday at the Sleepy Hollow Manor Nursing Home in Annandale.

From 1929 to 1953, Mrs. Cushman wrote nine novels that were serialized in national magazines and published in hard covers. One of her books. "I Wanted to Murder," won the Mary Roberts Rhinehart Mystery Novel Prize in 1940 and another, "Young Widow," was made into a movie starring Jane Russell.

Mrs. Cushman was born in Oberlin, Ohio, and graduated from Oberlin College with a Phi Beta Kappa key. She then moved to New York City and was editor on Vogue Magazine. From 1922 until 1958, she lived in Ithaca, N.Y., when her husband, Dr. Robert E. Cushman, was professor of government at Cornell University.

In 1958, the family moved to the Washington area when Dr. Cushman was named editor in chief of a project at the National Archives on the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the first ten amendments. Mrs. Cushman was an editorial assistant in this work.

The Cushmans lived in Arlington until Dr. Cushman's death in 1969. Mrs. Cushman then moved to the Sleepy Hollow Manor nursing facility.

Survivors include two sons, Robert F., of Huntington Station, N.Y., and John F., of Fairfax; five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.