Kate Douglas Wiggin was the "Houghton Mifflin gold-mine" according to an editor,
Robert N. Linscott (Tebbel 257). It all began on September 28, 1856 in Philadelphia
when Wiggin was born. Her mother was Helen Elizabeth Dryer Smith; originally from
a well-to-do family in Maine. Her father, Robert Noah Smith, had a bachelor's
degree from Brown University and a law degree from Harvard University. He died
suddenly on a business trip when Wiggin was three. Wiggin also had a sister,
Nora Archibald Smith. Shortly after Smith's death, the mother married a distant
cousin, Dr. Albion Bradbury, and the family moved to the rural town of Hollis, Maine.
Mrs. Bradbury had a son.
Kate Wiggin was an avid reader in childhood and her two biggest influences were Charles
Dickens and William Woodsworth. Wiggin attended the district school in Hollis, the brick
school in Buxton, and at the age of thirteen the Gorham Female Seminary. She then attended
the Morison Academy. In 1873, when Kate was seventeen, the family moved to Santa Barbara,
California due to the stepfather's ill health. In 1876, Dr. Bradbury died and left the family
penniless due to bad land speculation.
The two sisters went to work. Kate became the church organist. In the fall of 1876, at the age
of 20, Kate wrote and sold her first story "Half a Dozen Housekeepers" based on her experiences
at Gorham. It was sold to St. Nicholas magazine for $150. In 1877 Kate met Mrs. Carolina M.
Severance, an advocate for reform. She interested Kate in the kindergarten movement. This was the
movement to establish public kindergartens in the United States. Kate then attended the yearlong
training school for kindergarten teachers. She set up a small kindergarten, The Swallow's Nest.
In the summer of 1878 Kate was chosen to be the teacher of the Silver Street Kindergarten, the first
free kindergarten west of the Rocky Mts. In December of 1881 Wiggin married a childhood friend,
Samuel Bradley Wiggin. Kate turned the school over to her sister but continued to supervise and train
new teachers. She moved to New York in 1885 but remained involved with teaching. In September 1889,
Samuel Wiggin died suddenly. May 24, 1890 Kate and two friends sailed to tour England and the continent.
She gathered material for many of her books. Due to traveling for public relations and teaching, Wiggin
suffered a total collapse in 1892 and was admitted to a private hospital. In 1893 Kate purchased
Quillcote, an estate in Hollis, Maine.
In 1894, Kate met George Christopher Riggs on another cruise and they were engaged when the boat docked in
England. The wedding took place in All Saints Church in New York on March 30, 1895. Late in 1903, while in
a New York hospital recovering from an illness. Wiggin dreamed of Rebecca Randall. During her convalescence
Wiggin wrote Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Kate Wiggin completed her autobiography My Garden of Memory early
in August of 1923. She then died in a nursing home at Harrow-on-the-Hill, England on August 24, 1923. Her body
was cremated and Riggs scattered her ashes at Quillcote. He then erected a Celtic cross with the inscription
from Hans Christian Anderson, "The song is never ended" (DLB 380-393).
Wiggin's sister appears to have been her editor and she dealt directly with Edward Rittenhouse Houghton, her
publisher (Tebbel 256). Her papers are located at Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick Maine (Subject 2400).
Other Works by Kate Douglas Wiggin:
The Story of Patsy: A Reminiscence (1889), The Bird's Christmas Carol (1887), A Summer in a Cañon: A California
Story (1889), The Story Hour: A Book for the Home and Kindergarten (1890) with Smith, Timothy's Quest: A Story
for Anybody Old or Young (1890), Children's Rights: A Book of Nursery Logic (1892), Polly Oliver's Problem: A
Story for Girls (1893), A Cathedral Courtship and Penelope's English Experiences (1893), Froebel's Gifts (1895)
with Smith, The Village Watch-Tower (1895), Froebel's Occupations (1896) with Smith, Kindergarten Principles and
Practice(1896) with Smith, Marm Lisa (1896), Nine Love Songs and a Carol (1896), Penelope's Experiences in Scotland
(London 1898) republished as Penelope's Progress (1898), Penelope's English Experiences (1901), Penelope's Irish
Experiences (1901), The Diary of a Goose Girl (1902), Half-a-dozen Housekeepers (1903), The Affair at the Inn (1904)
with others, A Village Stradivarius (1904), Rose o' the River (1905), Finding a Home (1907), The Old Peabody Pew: A
Christmas Romance of an Old Country Church (1907), New Chronicles of Rebecca (1907), Susanna and Sue (1909), Mother
Carey's Chickens (1911), Robinetta (1911) with others, A Child's Journey with Dickens (1912), The Story of Waitstill
Baxter (1913), The Bird's Christmas Carol: Dramatic Version (1913) with Helen Ingersoll, Bluebeard: A Musical Fantasy(1914),
The Girl and the Kingdom: Learning to Teach (1915), Penelope's Postscripts: Switzerland, Venice, Wales, Devon, Home (1915),
The Romance of a Christmas Card (1916), Ladies in Waiting (1919), My Garden of Memory: An Autobiography (1923), The Quilt of
Happiness (1923), Creeping Jenny and Other New England Stories (1924), Love by Express: A Novel of California (1924), A Thorn
in the Flesh: A Monologue (1925), The Spirit of Christmas (1927), A Thanksgiving Retrospect; or, Simplicity of Life in Old New
England (1928), The Writings of Kate Douglas Wiggin, 9 volumes (1917).
Tebbel, John. A History of Book Publishing In The United States Vol. II The
Expansion of an Industry 1865-1919. New York and London: R.R. Bowker,
Subject Collections, Vol. 2 M-Z. 7th ed. New Providence, New Jersey: R.R. Bowker.
Moss, Anita. "Kate Douglas Wiggin." Dictionary of Literary Biography vol. 42
American Writers for Children Before 1900. Detroit, Michigan: Gale
Research Company, 1985. 380-393.