Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kate Douglas Wiggin

Kate Douglas Wiggin in her early career
Kate Douglas Wiggin (September 28, 1856–August 24, 1923) was an American educator and author of children's stories, most notably the classic children's novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She started the first free kindergarten in San Francisco in 1878 (the Silver Street Free Kindergarten). With her sister during the 1880s, she also established a training school for kindergarten teachers. Kate Wiggin devoted her adult life to the welfare of children in an era when children were commonly thought of as cheap labour.
In 1881, Kate married (Samuel) Bradley Wiggin, a San Francisco lawyer. According to the customs of the time, she was required to resign her teaching job. Still devoted to her school, she began to raise money for it through writing, first The Story of Patsy (1883), then The Birds' Christmas Carol (1887). Both privately printed books were issued commercially by Houghton Mifflin in 1889, with enormous success.
Ironically, considering her intense love of children, Kate Wiggin had none. She moved to New York City in 1888. When her husband died suddenly during 1889, Kate relocated to Maine. For the rest of her life she grieved, but she also traveled as frequently as she could, dividing her time between writing, visits to Europe, and giving public reading for the benefit of various children's charities.
During 1895 Kate Wiggin married a New York City businessman, George Christopher Riggs, who became her staunch supporter as her success increased. Her literary output included popular books for adults; with her sister, Nora A. Smith, she published scholarly work on the educational principles of Friedrich Froebel: Froebel's Gifts (1895), Froebel's Occupations (1896), and Kindergarten Principles and Practice (1896); and she wrote the classic children's novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903), as well as the 1905 best-seller Rose o' the River. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm became an immediate bestseller; both it and Mother Carey's Chickens (1911) were adapted to drama. Houghton Mifflin collected her writings in ten volumes in 1917.
For a time, she lived at Quillcote, her summer home in Hollis, Maine. Quillcote is around the corner from the town's library, the Salmon Falls Library, which Wiggin founded in 1911. Wiggin founded the Dorcas Society of Hollis & Buxton, Maine in 1897. The Tory Hill Meeting House in the adjacent town of Buxton inspired her book (and later play), The Old Peabody Pew (1907).

Poster for the stage adaptation of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm produced by Klaw & Erlanger, 1911

“Finished putting the siding on the barn today.  Has been a very fine day.  Sleighing is getting quite poor”
Leesah

No comments:

Post a Comment