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Lothrop, Harriet (Mulford) Stone

LOTHROP, Harriet (Mulford) Stone

Born 22 June 1844, New Haven, Connecticut; died 2 August 1924, Concord, Massachusetts

Wrote under: Margaret Sidney

Daughter of Sidney Mason and Harriet Mulford Stone; married David Lothrop, 1881; children: Margaret

Harriet Stone Lothrop grew up in a religious New England family whose ancestors included the Reverend Thomas Hooker and several distinguished colonial governors. Lothrop's father was a respected architect, and it was in deference to his disapproval of women writers that Lothrop adopted the pen name of "Margaret Sidney." The disciplined atmosphere of learning and religion that pervaded Lothrop's childhood days is reflected in the tight moral tone dominating her many works.

In 1878, Lothrop contributed a short story entitled "Polly Pepper's Chicken Pie" to Wide Awake, a children's magazine. Reader response was enthusiastic, and the editor requested that Lothrop provide the magazine with twelve more installments. Lothrop hesitated, unsure of her ability; but she succeeded in completing the requested chapters. They were later compiled into the best-selling children's book, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1881).

Lothrop followed this first success with Five Little Peppers Midway (1890) and then proceeded to write ten more Pepper volumes, ending with Our Davie Pepper in 1916. The Pepper series traces the development of five energetic children from their early childhood days in the country, through their adolescent education in the big city, and on to the decisions of their adult lives. Although all the Pepper volumes were greeted with enthusiastic reviews, Lothrop's first volume remained the most popular, selling over two million copies by the time of her death.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew opens in a little brown house in the country where five children and their recently widowed mother are struggling to survive through a bitter winter. Lothrop, herself from a well-to-do family, always wanted to live in a little brown house, and the picture she presents of impoverished country life is extremely romanticized. Despite their many misfortunes, the Peppers are never downcast and they meet all adversity with an amazing fortitude. They are intent on being good Christians, never giving in to petty emotions such as jealousy or conceit.

This moral tone does not get in the way of the narrative, however. The Pepper adventure is energetic and amusing, filled with mischief and practical joking. Lothrop has a deep-rooted understanding of children and she provides the action as well as the repetition that her audience demands. Her language, although overworked, is effective and sincere. Lothrop claimed that the Peppers lived independently in her imagination for years before she ever wrote about them, and this philosophy gives her narratives a natural fluidity.

In 1881, at the age of thirty-seven, Lothrop married a Boston publisher of children's books, and they moved to Concord, Massachusetts. Here, Lothrop gave birth to her only child, Margaret, and her husband bought the historic Wayside house as a surprise for her. The Wayside had been the childhood residence of Louisa May Alcott, whose work Lothrop's so closely resembles. In Massachusetts, Lothrop continued working on the Pepper narratives, as well as writing historical novels such as A Little Maid of Concord Town (1898) and The Judges' Cave (1900). Lothrop had a strong interest in history and was a careful researcher, but she never succeeded in bringing life to these historical novels. Primarily written for an adult audience, they lack the spark and energy of the Pepper novels, while retaining their didactic overtones.

Lothrop was always active in community life. She combined her interest in history with her interest in children by founding the national society of Children of the American Revolution. She belonged to innumerable clubs—women's, writers', and historical—but showed little interest in the woman suffrage movement. Shortly before her death at the age of eighty, she was still going strong, working on an article about Edgar Allan Poe.

Other Works:

So As By Fire (1881). The Pettibone Name (1882). Hester, and Other New England Stories (1886). The Minute Man (1886). A New Departure for Girls (1886). Dilly and the Captain (1887). How Tom and Dorothy Made and Kept a Christian House (1888). Rob: A Story for Boys (1891). Five Little Peppers Grown Up (1892). Old Concord, Her Highways and Byways (1893). Whittier with the Children (1893). The Old Town Pump (1895). The Gingham Bag (1896). Phronsie Pepper (1897). The Stories Polly Pepper Told (1899). An Adirondack Cabin (1900). The Adventures of Joel Pepper (1900). Five Little Peppers Abroad (1902). Ben Pepper (1903). Sally, Mrs. Tubbs (1903). Five Little Peppers and Their Friends (1904). The Five Little Peppers at School (1907). Five Little Peppers in the Little Brown House (1907). A Little Maid from Boston Town (1910).

Bibliography:

Lothrop, M., The Wayside: Home of Authors (1940). Swayne, J. L., The Story of Concord (1906).

Reference works:

AA. AW. DAB, VI, 1. NAW NCAB, 8.

Other References:

Book News Monthly (Feb. 1910). Boston Transcript (4 Aug. 1924). PW (9 Aug. 1924).

—CHRISTIANE BIRD

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