History's Women: Misc. Articles: Harriet Prescott Spofford, Novelist and JournalistHarriet Prescott Spofford
Novelist and Journalist
1835 – 1921 A.D.

Calais, Me., was the birthplace of Harriet Prescott. Her father, Joseph N. Prescott, was a lumber merchant. He afterwards studied law, and in 1849 went to the far west with the thousands of fortune seekers. He was one of the founders of the city of Oregon and was thrice elected major. During the last twenty years of his life he suffered from lingering paralysis.

Her mother was a woman of great nobility of character and left her impress upon the life of her daughter.

At fourteen Harriet went to Newburyport to live with an aunt, where she might gain an education which could not be obtained in Calais. She won the prize for an essay on Hamlet and gained the attention of some literary people who gave her encouragement. She afterward studied at Pinkerton Academy, her mother and the other children having moved to Derry, N.H.

Harriet early began to write short stories to win bread for loved ones, and she was able to add somewhat to their scanty income.

In 1858 there appeared in the Atlantic Monthly a story from her pen, In a Cellar, which created a great stir. Sir Rohan’s Ghost was one of her great works. The South Breaker, taken from the scenes of a sea-faring life so familiar at Newburyport, breathes the very breath of old ocean with the rumble and roar of sullen storm. A Thief in the Night is a dramatic story of sowing and reaping in the fields of sin. She wrote also, New England Legends, The Marquis of Carabas, and Hester Stanly at St. Mark’s.

In 1865 Miss Prescott was married to Richard S. Spofford, a Newburyport lawyer. They had loved each other since the days of early youth, and had for many years been engaged.

Mrs. Spofford gave careful attention to domestic affairs and was a homemaker as well as a literary light.

She wrote on domestic subjects as well as fiction. Among her other productions are Art Decoration Applied to Furniture and The Servant Question.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.

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