Who Is Ella Higginson?

Portrait by Edward Sheriff Curtis.

"Ella Rhoads Higginson (January 28, 1862?-December 27, 1940) was a prominent American author. She wrote award-winning fiction, poetry, and essays characteristically set in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. She was the author of two collections of short stories, six books of poetry, a novel, a travel book, well over one hundred short stories, over three hundred poems, and numerous newspaper essays. She was influential for the ways her writing drew international attention to the then little-known Pacific Northwest region of the United States."

Quoted from Dr. Laura Laffrado's Western Washington University research page at http://faculty.wwu.edu/laffrado/research.shtml

Ella Higginson in 1885, portrait by the Frank G. Abell Studio in Portland, OR, image courtesy of the Ella Higginson Papers, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA.

Ella Higginson was the first Poet Laureate of Washington State, as voted by the Washington State Federation of Women's Clubs in 1931. Back then, the position of Poet Laureate was not decided by the governor like it is now in accordance with a bill passed in 2007 establishing the State Poet Laureate as a position regulated by the State Legislator. However, she was thus identified as Poet Laureate for the rest of her life and to not do so in the twenty-first century would be untruthful to the history of Washington State.

A Life Sketch of Ella Higginson

"Ella Rhoads was born in Council Grove, Kansas, to Charles Reeve[s] Rhoads and Mary A. Rhoads. She was the youngest of six children. In 1863, the family traveled by wagon train from Kansas to Oregon and first settled in Eastern Oregon’s Grand Ronde Valley. They later moved to Portland, then to a farm near Milwaukie, then to Oregon City. Ella was privately tutored and also attended public school. At age 23, she married Russell Carden Higginson, age 33, a druggist from the Northeastern United States. He was a distant cousin of New England writer and abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson."

"In 1888, Ella and Russell Higginson moved to New Whatcom (later Bellingham), Washington where they would live the rest of their lives. During their marriage, Higginson and her husband traveled to the Northeast United States to visit his family and to Honolulu for her husband's health. Higginson herself traveled to Alaska for four consecutive summers as part of the research for her travel book. In 1892, the Higginson house in Bellingham was built. On May 14, 1909, Russell Higginson, age 57, died after a short illness. During WWI, Ella Higginson ceased to write during the war years and volunteered full-time for the American Red Cross. She died on December 27, 1940, at age 78, having been ill most of the year. She left an estate of about $60,000. She is buried in Bayview Cemetery, Bellingham, Washington beneath a self-designed granite monument adorned with four-leaf clovers, a reference to her most well-known poem."

Quoted from Dr. Laura Laffrado's Western Washington University research page at http://faculty.wwu.edu/laffrado/research.shtml

Works by Ella Higginson:

  • A Bunch of Western Clover (Bellingham, Washington: Edson & Irish, 1894)
  • The Flower That Grew in the Sand and Other Stories (Seattle: The Calvert Company, 1896); reprinted as From the Land of the Snow Pearls (NY: Macmillan, 1897)
  • A Forest Orchid and Other Stories (NY: Macmillan, 1897); reprinted 1902
  • When the Birds Go North Again (NY: Macmillan, 1898)
  • The Snow-Pearls (Seattle: Lowman and Hanford, 1897); reprinted Macmillan, 1902
  • Four-Leaf Clover: A Little Book of Verse (Bellingham, Washington: Edson & Irish, 1901)
  • Mariella of Out-West (NY: Macmillan, 1902).
  • The Voice of April-Land and Other Poems (NY: Macmillan, 1903)
  • Alaska, the Great Country (NY: Macmillan 1908)
  • The Vanishing Race (Bellingham, Washington: C.M. Sherman, 1911)

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