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Ella Higginson

Higginson Portrait Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University      Northwest poet and writer Ella Higginson (1861-1940) was born Ella Rhoads in Council Grove, Kansas. She moved to Oregon with her parents as an infant, spending her youth in Portland and Oregon City. She attended public school in Oregon, and also received private lessons from Oxford trained S.D. Pope, then one of the most renowned educators on the West coast.
      In 1885, Ella married Russell C. Higginson (1852-1909) in Portland Oregon. The couple moved to Bellingham, Washington (then the town of Sehome) in 1888, where they opened a drug store on Elk Street. It was during this period that Higginson's writing career began to flourish, with her poetry and short stories published nationally by journals including McClures, Harper's Monthly, and Colliers. Her best known work, a poem entitled "Four Leaf Clover," was first published by West Shore Magazine in 1890. Higginson's novels and collections of short stories include Mariella-Of-Out-West, Alaska the Great Country, The Flower that Grew in the Sand, From the Land of Snow Pearls, and The Forest Orchid and Other Stories. In June 1931, she was made poet laureate of Washington State.
      Higginson was actively involved in community and civic affairs. She helped establish Bellingham's first public reading room and library (of which she became a long-time board member), and also retained an active interest in Whatcom County Normal School (later Western Washington University). Higginson was deeply concerned with issues affecting women, including female education and the institution of marriage. In a 1889 article in West Shore, she argued that the "real evil was not that divorce was too easy, but that marriage was too easy, and that there should be a law preventing marriage before the age of thirty, especially if the woman was homeless."  She was an honorary member of societies including the Progressive Literary and Fraternal Club, the Bellingham Soroptimists and the Washington State Federation of Women's Clubs. Higginson was also the campaign manager for Mrs Frances C. Axtell, elected as the first female member of Washington State's House of Representatives in 1912. Higginson died in Bellingham, Wash. on December 27, 1940.  For more detailed information about Ella Higginson, see a Chronology of her life.

For additional primary sources see the finding aid to the Higginson Collection at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies:


*Dorothy Koert, The Lyric Singer: A Biography of Ella Higginson (Bellingham, Washington: Center for Pacific Northwest Studies & Fourth Corner Registry), 52.