Ella Rhoads was born in 1861. In 1885, she married Russell C. Higginson. In addition to her poetry, she also published novels and short story collections, including The Flower that Grew in the Sand (1896), The Forest Orchid and Other Stories (1897), Mariella-of-Out-West (1902), Alaska the Great Country, and From the Land of Snow Pearls. In 1902 she published a poetry collection, When the Birds Go North Again, which the New York Times praised for its "depth and delicacy of feelings". She published the poetry collection The Vanishing Race and Other Poems in 1911. Her best known work is the poem "Four Leaf Clover", which was first published by West Shore Magazine in 1890.
Higginson also helped establish the first public reading room and library in Bellingham, Washington, and for a long time was a board member there. She was also the campaign manager for Frances C. Axtell, elected as the first female member of Washington State's House of Representatives in 1912.
The royal scandal
Higginson heard of the story alleging a secret marriage between a young British prince and the daughter of a high-ranking naval officer. She retold it, with poetic licence, in Alaska (1909). In her version, when the young prince had to renounce this marriage, his beloved was given the royallest of exiles: near the City of Vancouver "in the western solitude, lived for several years -- the veriest remittance woman -- the girl who should now, by the right of love and honor, be the Princess of Wales, and whose infant daughter should have been the heir to the throne."
The radical publisher Edward Mylius was charged under English law with criminal libel for publicising the story in 1910, as journalism not poetic legend, just as George V was about to be crowned. The The International Socialist newspaper of Sydney, Australia, then offered a new twist on this. Alaska: The Great Country had been acquired by the city's library in 1910. The newspaper mischievously opined that Lord Mayor Allen Taylor, as head of the City Council and thus responsible for its library, was as guilty as Mylius in publishing " the same statement with a cheerful disregard for the possibility of things", informing its readers that "the issuing of [a library book] constitutes publication under the law".
"Mylius's libel wasn't any stronger, and this paper declares that what is sauce for the Mylius goose should also be sauce for the Lord Mayor gander, and it is hereby demanded that the Lord Mayor and the City Librarian and various other persons be prosecuted for 'libelling the king,' and that they each be given one year's hard labor, and taken to Goulburn Jail in leg-irons.
It is needless to say that ' Alaska' will be withdrawn from the Free Library immediately after this article appears; therefore, those who wish to get the book and verify the libel for themselves will have to call early to avoid the crush."
- Koert, Dorothy. The Lyric Singer: A Biography of Ella Higginson. Published 1985.
- "Guide to the Ella Higginson Papers 1870-1940". Retrieved November 27, 2014.
- "Ella Higginson". Retrieved November 27, 2014.
- "Four-Leaf Clover". Retrieved November 27, 2014.
- Higginson, Ella (1909). Alaska: The Great Country.
- "The King Again Libelled.". Sydney, NSW, Australia: The International Socialist. 18 Mar 1911.
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