Tag Archives: Quillcote

Kate Douglas Wiggin – Maine woman writer with California roots

Years ago, when I was the Special Collections Librarian at Westbrook College (later University of New England), and in charge of the Maine Women Writers Collection, I met Glenys Tarlow, collector of books by Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856-1923). She offered to give a talk about Wiggin, which I followed up on. Through that talk I met Carla Turner, who owned Kate Douglas Wiggin’s summer home, Quillcote, in Hollis, Maine. Carla was kind enough to invite me out to see her beautiful home, and she also took me to the Salmon Falls Library, which was established in 1911 by Kate Douglas Wiggin as the Salmon Falls Village Library and Tearoom (every small town needs one!). It was truly an honor to meet these generous women, connected to Kate Douglas Wiggin – one of the wonderful side benefits of my job.

Many people are familiar with Kate Douglas Wiggin’s most famous book, “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” but many don’t know of all Wiggin’s other talents and interests, including as an educator (a leader in the free kindergarten movement) and composer. As a native Californian I was intrigued to learn of Wiggin’s connections to California. Teenage Kate’s family moved to Santa Barbara, where I also lived as a teenager in the nearby town of Carpinteria. In her early 20s she headed the Silver Street Kindergarten in San Francisco—the first free kindergarten on the West Coast of the United States (I was born in nearby Berkeley and lived in San Francisco after college).

What is also interesting about Wiggin is how she was connected to Maine, despite being born in Philadelphia. When Kate’s father died, her mother moved the family to Portland, and then Hollis, Maine. Kate later attended Gorham Female Seminary. She spent time off and on at Quillcote throughout the years, getting involved in the local community, and even setting one of her books in Buxton. When she died at the age of 66, her ashes were scattered on the Saco River.

As you can see, I feel a bit of a kinship for this famous author who was bi-coastal, with roots in the two places I’ve lived the longest – California (26 years) and Maine (27 years).