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BELLINGHAM'S OWN ELLA HIGGINSON, CELEBRATED PACIFIC NORTHWEST AUTHOR
At the turn into the twentieth century, Bellingham's very own Ella Rhoads Higginson was the most influential Pacific Northwest literary writer in the United States. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest and the people who lived here when they read Higginson’s award-winning poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Higginson’s descriptions of the majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters of the Puget Sound presented the then-remote, unfamiliar Pacific Northwest to eager readers. Higginson’s celebrated writings were the very first to prominently place the Pacific Northwest on the literary map of the United States. It gives me chills just to think about it!
Higginson’s talent was widely recognized during her lifetime. She had a major New York publisher in the prestigious Macmillan Company. She was awarded best short story prizes from well-known magazines such as Collier’s, McClure’s, Peterson’s, and Short Stories. Many of her poems were set to music and performed internationally by celebrated dramatic singers such as Enrico Caruso. And in 1931, Higginson was chosen to be the very first Poet Laureate of Washington State. However, by the time she died in 1940 both she and her work were almost completely forgotten. They are only now coming back into prominence.
Higginson lived her entire adult life in Bellingham, a place she so loved. She was an active citizen in many ways: she donated the books that formed the core of the Western Washington University Library collection, she was instrumental in founding the Bellingham Public Library, and she was a much admired figure to generations of WWU students who daily walked by her beautiful High Street house on the way to class. Unfortunately, very few traces of Higginson remain on Western's campus.
Please do join me in reversing that neglect by honoring this celebrated woman with the creation of a bronze bust. The bust will be placed in the Reading Room in Wilson Library, alongside portraits of Western's presidents and the library's Pacific Northwest Collection. It is fitting that the bust will be in Wilson Library, given Higginson's deep friendship with Mabel Zoe Wilson. The bust will be created by well-known Pacific Northwest sculptor by Robert McDermott. This beautiful bronze bust will be a permanent, long overdue reminder of this famous woman, celebrated writer, and dear friend to Bellingham and Western Washington University.
Please donate now by clicking on the link or by sending your check made payable to the WWU Foundation (write Ella Higginson Project in the memo) and mail to WWU Foundation, 516 High Street, MS 9034, Bellingham, WA 98225. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Laura Laffrado at <Laura.Laffrado@wwu.edu> or 360-650-2886.