Gene Stratton-Porter was born in Lagro, Indiana on August 17, 1863. Christened Geneva Grace, she was the youngest of twelve children. When Geneva was three, her mother was taken ill with typhoid fever and never fully recovered, so the little girl spent most of her early years outdoors in the company of her father and brothers. During this time, she fed baby birds in the nest, collected moths and generally immersed herself in nature. When she was twelve her mother died, and the family spent the next several years moving between the homes of Gene’s married sisters.
In 1883, Gene met Charles D. Porter at a religious revival. Three years later, she married the successful pharmacist and the couple built a home, “Limberlost,” by the Limberlost Swamp near Geneva, Indiana. They later built another residence, “The Cabin in Wildflower Woods,” located near Rome City. (Both are now Indiana State Historic Sites.)
An early environmentalist, Gene wrote popular novels for young adults that took place in natural settings. After achieving financial success as an author, Stratton-Porter developed her own production company in Los Angeles, and most of her books were made into movies. On December 6, 1924, she died in a streetcar accident during one of her trips to California. She was fifty-one years old. After Stratton-Porter’s death, her only daughter, Jeannette Porter Meehan, wrote sequels to several of her mother’s novels.
During her lifetime, Gene Stratton-Porter wrote a total of twelve novels, the most famous of which were Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost. She also wrote nature studies and books of poetry. It is estimated that she had a readership of fifty-million at the time that she died. Most of her titles are still in print, and are also available as free Kindle downloads from Amazon.com.
Gene Stratton-Porter: A Little Study of Her Life and Work, published by Doubleday, Page and Company in 1915 and again in 1926, is an excellent biography created largely from the author’s personal records and writings. It can be viewed online at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/stratton/gene/gene.html
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