605 High Street
May 11, 1935
Dear Mr. Powers,
I love the twin states of the Northwest next to God and my country; and if either should cease to claim me as one of her writers, my heart would be broken.
I lived in Oregon—the exquisite Grand Ronde Valley, Portland, a loved farm on the Willamette and Oregon City—from infancy until 1888. I believe that my childhood and girlhood in Oregon influenced my work more than anything else. I am deeply indebted to several Oregon people who recognized writing ability in me during my girlhood—most of all, my idolized sister, who was much older than I, and who was the joy and the solace of my life to the day of her death. After her, Dr. S.D. Pope, of Oxford College, whose private school I attended—being much younger than most of the others—and who greatly praised my early attempts at writing. Captain H. L. Wells, editor of Portland’s old West Shore, was a heaven-sent friend. Without his encouragement, patience, and kindness, I could never have struggled on—for those were dark days for young writers.
You ask—“particularly what caused you to become a writer?” Nothing but the consuming desire to write. It is the only thing I ever really wanted to do. I wrote my first poem when I was eight—a lonely little girl on the farm; my brother, who was also much older than I, laughed himself to tears, and my indulgent father “hoped I wouldn’t make myself ridiculous”; but my mother kissed me and my sister took me into her arms and comforted my hurt heart. I did not try again until I was fourteen, when I wrote an intense love-poem, which was printed. I still have it and when I feel like blushing scarlet—I read it again!
Now, as to Oregon’s claiming me as one of her writers: [Edwin] Markham was born in Oregon and left when five years old; yet Oregon claimed him for her poet-laureate. (And by the way, I am poet-laureate of Washington!)
With the exception of Mariella and Alaska, my books are out of print; but if you haven’t them, I could lend you one of each. That is all I have—they went out of print so quickly during the war. And I’d love to give you Mariella—if you would care for it.
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 four 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.
Bio quoted from Dr. Laura Laffrado’s Western Washington University research page at http://faculty.wwu.edu/laffrado/research.shtml