Searching for Ella Higginson

March 12 2015 7:00

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room • 121 Prospect St. • Free

Join us for a fascinating talk about Ella Higginson with Laura Laffrado, professor of English at WWU. Laffrado will speak about her efforts to reintroduce readers to Higginson’s life and work and to reclaim Higginson as a significant voice in American literature. A new publication from the Whatcom County Historical Society on Higginson is due out soon. Laffrado is the author.

An Early Voice of the Pacific Northwest

The first prominent literary author from the Pacific Northwest, Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940) has been largely forgotten Higginson with Car 001as a key American writer. During the turn from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, readers across the nation were introduced to the remote Pacific Northwest region by Higginson’s descriptions of majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters, as well as the often difficult economic circumstances of those dwelling near Puget Sound. Higginson was celebrated for her award-winning fiction, her lyric poetry which was set to music and performed internationally, and her distinguished position as the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Throughout her literary career, Higginson published hundreds of poems, stories, and essays in leading magazines and newspapers, while also writing books, including the novel Mariella, of Out-West (1902) and the nonfiction work Alaska, the Great Country (1908).

Lost to Time but Relevant Today as Precise Look at Our Region 100 years ago

Higginson’s reputation as a well-known American author faded chiefly due to her singular position as a literary writer in the turn of the century Pacific Northwest, far from other regions and writers at the time. Areas of the United States such as New England and the South were often portrayed by many different authors in earlier American literature. Taken together, such writings created familiar literary regions for readers. However, only in Higginson’s writing did the Pacific Northwest of over a century ago spring to life in precise detail. Because of this, her work stands alone.

Laffrado is the author of Uncommon Women: Gender and Representation in U.S. Women’s Writing (The Ohio State University Press, 2009) and Hawthorne’s Literature for Children (University of Georgia Press, 1992).At right: Higginson near her High St. home (Whatcom Museum).

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