Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923) was born in Philadelphia, into a well-to-do-family and she received a good education over the course of her childhood. When she was seventeen, the family moved all the way west to California. In 1878, with her sister Nora, she started the first free kindergarten west of the Rocky Mountains, in the slums of San Francisco. In 1881 she married Samuel Wiggin, but following his death she married again and became Mrs. George Riggs in 1899.
Kate Douglas Wiggin began writing in order to finance her school. In 1883 her first book, The Story of Patsy, was published; and in 1887 she achieved her first major success with The Bird's Christmas Carol. Every book she wrote after that sold very well, and she also became extremely popular in Great Britain, especially for her Penelope books, about an American girl's adventures in Britain. Kate Riggs, as she now was, spent a lot of time with her second husband in England, where she was regarded as a kind of unofficial ambassadress for the United States. She would, in fact, die in England.
For all her earlier successes as a writer, nothing came close to the reception of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in 1903. Even Mark Twain, for all his legendary fierceness, was so charmed by it that he described it as "beautiful book". The irrepressible Rebecca, also appeared in a sequel: The New Chronicles of Rebecca, which was published in 1907. There have been stage versions and films, the most memorable of which is the 1921 silent version, with Mary Pickford in the title role. Rebecca has been described as "the nicest child in American literature," but this does not mean that she is all sugary sweet: it is just that she never fails to captivate the reader.
Did you find this review helpful?