Born 16 November 1853, Providence, Rhode Island; died 19 February 1928, Huiry, France
Wrote under: H. Quinn
Daughter of Edwin and Lucy Ayers Baker Aldrich
For 12 years, Mildred Aldrich was secretary to the manager of the Boston Home Journal and a contributor under the pseudonym "H. Quinn." She also edited The Mahogany Tree, a journal of ideas, and during 1892 and 1893, submitted three substantial pieces on theater to Arena. She joined the Boston Journal in 1894, and moved the following year to the Boston Herald. There she further strengthened her already strong reputation for astute dramatic criticism. Sometime around the turn of the century, but before 1904, Aldrich moved to Paris, where she represented several American theatrical producers and wrote for American magazines. When she was sixty-one, in 1914, she retired to the French countryside. Her hilltop home, La Creste, afforded a view of the site of the Battle of the Marne.
From La Creste, Aldrich wrote four firsthand accounts of life in wartime France. A Hilltop on the Marne (1915), her most successful book, first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. It treats the progress of the battle, and the spirit and commitment of both soldiers and villagers. The work's strength derives from the compression of events and Aldrich's expanding understanding, which the reader shares. On the Edge of the War Zone (1917) covers the period 16 September 1914 to 28 March 1917, and is more diffuse in its approach; of special interest are Aldrich's reports on gas warfare and descriptions of soldiers' wartime entertainments. The Peak of the Load (1918) deals with "the waiting months on the hilltop from the entrance of the stars and stripes to the second victory on the Marne." In the following year, 1919, came When Johnny Comes Marching Home, in which Aldrich describes how "the countryside settled down" after the armistice. She also produced two other wartime books.
Told in a French Garden, August, 1914 (1916) is Aldrich's sole work of fiction. By a "strange irony of Fate," nine people find themselves in provincial France in the darkest days of the war. To raise their spirits, they follow Boccaccio's example in The Decameron, and each relates a story following the day's dinner. Prologues and epilogues frame the stories and reveal the conflicts in value displayed by the participants.
Aldrich also wrote the foreword to The Letters of Thomasina Atkins (W.A.A.C.) on Active Service (1918). This volume recounts Atkins' experiences in the British Women's Auxiliary Army Corps stationed "somewhere in France." For her help in swaying American opinion towards entrance into World War I and her assistance to soldiers and refugees, Aldrich was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government in 1922.
Stein, G. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1932). Mellow, J. R., Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company (1973).