Lothrop, Harriet (1844–1924)

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Lothrop, Harriet (1844–1924)

American author of the popular "Five Little Peppers" series. Name variations: (pseudonym) Margaret Sidney. Born Harriet (also seen as Harriett) Mulford Stone on June 22, 1844, in New Haven, Connecticut; died on August 2, 1924, in San Francisco, California; elder of two daughters of Sidney Mason Stone (an architect) and Harriett (Mulford) Stone; graduated from Grove Hall Seminary, New Haven, Connecticut; married Daniel Lothrop (a publisher), on October 4, 1881 (died 1892); children: one daughter, Margaret Lothrop.

Selected works:

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1881); 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 (1896); Dilly and the Captain (1887); How Tom and Dorothy Made and Kept a Christian House (1888); Five Little Peppers Midway (1889); 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); A Little Maid of Concord Town (1898); The Stories Polly Pepper Told (1899); An Adirondack Cabin (1900); The Adventures of Joel Pepper (1900); The Judges' Cave (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); Our Davie Pepper (1916).

Harriet Lothrop, recognized largely by her pseudonym Margaret Sidney, was best known for her fictional series detailing the adventures of the five Pepper children, the first of which, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, always remained the most popular. Simplistic and didactic by modern-day standards, the books were enormously successful in their time, and five of the stories were adapted into films by Columbia Pictures between 1939 and 1940.

Born Harriet Mulford Stone in 1844 in New Haven, Connecticut, the eldest of two daughters, Lothrop grew up in a cultured and religious home. Her ancestors included John Howland of the Mayflower and several colonial governors. Lothrop's childhood memories involved a cadre of invented playmates with whom she enjoyed an imaginary outdoor life that her city environment did not offer. The little brown house that eventually became the fictional home of the Pepper family was also a childhood fantasy, complete with its large green door, and surrounded by an expanse of country fields. "Oh, how I longed for that to be my home," she recalled. "I could not understand how my father who was a most successful architect, ever had been so foolish as to live in a big city and not in this place, where I might have hens and chickens, and scratch the back of the pigs."

Lothrop attended private school in New Haven and also heavily sampled her father's extensive library. Although she longed to be a writer from an early age, her stories and poems did not find their way into print until the late 1870s. In 1877, Lothrop's story "Polly Pepper's Chicken Pit," written under the pseudonym Margaret Sidney, appeared in Wide Awake, a children's periodical published by the D. Lothrop Company of Boston. It was followed by "Phronsie Pepper's New Shoes" in 1878. These two stories provided the impetus for Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, which was serialized by the magazine in 1880 and published in book form the following year. It was followed by 11 additional "Pepper" adventures, concluding with Our Davie Pepper in 1916. The books, some of the most popular of their time, would sell over two million copies by 1924 and would still be in print four decades later.

In 1881, Harriet married the publisher of Wide Awake, Daniel Lothrop, a widower 30 years her senior. In 1883, to surprise his wife, Daniel purchased "The Wayside" in Concord, Massachusetts, the childhood home of Louisa May Alcott . When Daniel died in 1892, Harriet became the sole support of their daughter Margaret Lothrop , who was born in 1885. Harriet took over the management of the publishing firm for several years while continuing to write.

Besides her "Pepper" series, Lothrop wrote 40 or so other books, including Little Maid of Concord Town (1898), a romance about her beloved Massachusetts home, and The Judges' Cave (1900), a novel set in her birthplace, New Haven, Connecticut. Though carefully researched, they have been criticized as somewhat lifeless. "Primarily written for an adult audience, they lack the spark and energy of the Pepper novel, while retaining their didactic overtones," writes Christiane Bird . Lothrop provided another historical view of Concord in Old Concord: Her Highways and By-ways (1888), a guidebook of sorts, dealing with the months and the years prior to 1775.

Throughout her career, Harriet Lothrop was extremely active in her community. She was

a founding member of the Concord branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was instrumental in organizing the national society of Children of the American Revolution. She also held memberships in numerous other historical and writers' clubs. Her interest in historical preservation ran so deep that in 1902, when the Orchard House in Concord, made famous by the Alcotts, was to be torn down, she bought it and preserved it for ten years, after which it was taken over by the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association. She was also a leading force in the preservation and restoration of several other historical homes in Concord.

In her later years, Lothrop devoted much of her time to travel, touring with her daughter in Egypt and Palestine as well as in England, Norway, and the Continent. Her last winters were spent in California, where the climate was more forgiving. "The breadth of the continent, however, did not separate her spirit from Concord and the home which was filled for her with associations," said her daughter. Lothrop was at work on an article about Edgar Allan Poe when she died at the age of 80. The author was buried in her beloved Concord, on Author's Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.


Commire, Anne, ed. Something About the Author. Vol. 20. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Mainiero, Lina, ed. American Women Writers. NY: Frederick Ungar, 1981.

McHenry, Robert. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

suggested reading:

Lothrop, Margaret. The Wayside: Home of Authors, 1940.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts