WWU’s Laura Laffrado Wins 2018 SSAWW Award for New Book

Western Washington University Professor of English Laura Laffrado has received the 2018 Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW) Edition award for her book, “Selected Writings of Ella Higginson: Inventing Pacific Northwest Literature.”

Laffrado was presented the award in early November at the SSAWW conference in Denver.

At the conference, Laffrado was honored for her outstanding contribution to the study of American women writers. Laffrado began work on her book a few years ago and was nominated for the award by her publisher.

Laffrado described the Ella Higginson project as a multifaceted effort that hopes to return Pacific Northwest author Ella Rhoads Higginson and her writing to the same prominence they once held at the beginning of the 20th century.

Higginson was a well-known literary writer, celebrated for her award-winning fiction, nonfiction and lyric poetry. She used scenic descriptions to introduce the then-remote Pacific Northwest to readers across the nation at the turn of the 20th century. She was also the first Poet Laureate of Washington state.

“I first became interested in Higginson when I stumbled upon her work in the Washington State Archives and became curious about who this woman writer—who I had never heard of—could be,” Laffrado said. “Once I realized that she had published over 800 works in her lifetime, had won many literary awards, and had been elected first poet laureate of Washington State, I made it my mission to bring her and her writing back into prominence.”

Laffrado’s book has brought Higginson’s work back to the forefront for the first time in decades – something Laffrado feels is one of her biggest achievements with this project.

Plaques placed on campus mark the former location of Higginson’s house between where Viking Commons and Mathes Hall now stand, and explain the quote, “Here is the Home of Color and of Light” engraved above Edens Hall and taken from one of Higginson’s poems. Laffrado feels these plaques, along with the new Higginson bust in the foyer of Western’s Wilson Library, are some of the largest achievements of the project.

Laffrado is a lifetime member of SSAWW, an organization that promotes the study of American women writers through research, teaching and publication. Its goal is to strengthen the relationships between the people and institutions who broaden the general public’s knowledge about American women writers. Laffrado presents her work at the SSAWW conference and is on the advisory board of the organization’s journal.

“In the future I hope to continue publishing about Ella Higginson’s work, teaching her writing to Western students, and spreading the word far and wide about her and her writing,” she said.

For more information on the Ella Higginson project and “Selected Writings of Ella Higginson: Inventing Pacific Northwest Literature,” contact Laura Laffrado, WWU professor of English, at laura.laffrado@wwu.edu.