Susan Coolidge was the pseudonym of Sarah Chauncey Woolsey. Susan Coolidge wrote the famous “What Katy Did” series of children’s books, as well as other novels and collections of verse.
Sarah Chauncey Woolsey was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1835. She attended boarding school, and from 1870 to 1872 travelled overseas. She then settled with her family in Rhode Island until her death. Her father’s family was connected with Yale University – three Woolseys had served as its president. During the Civil War Sarah worked as a nurse, then began to write in 1871. Woolsey chose the pseudonym Susan Coolidge in imitation of her sister, whose pseudonym was Margaret Coolidge. Susan Coolidge wrote magazine articles, she edited and translated various works and collections of letters (including the correspondence of Fanny Burney and Jane Austen), she published volumes of poetry and wrote children’s books.
The most well known and enduring of Coolidge’s books is “What Katy Did” – the story of Katy Carr, a tall, impatient and quick witted young girl, the eldest of a country doctor’s family of six. A study in Britain in 1990 found that the “What Katy Did” series was among the ten most popular reading choices for 12 year old girls – over 100 years after they were written. Katy’s adventures spanned 5 books, however only the first three remain in print. So far I haven’t found the other two for less than AUS$200 each. Katy was modelled on her creator – Sarah Woolsey shared many of her heroine’s traits – and Woolsey’s siblings were the models for Katy’s brothers and sisters. “What Katy Did” was made into a movie, directed by Stacey Stewart Curtis.
Susan Coolidge never married, and died in 1905 at the age of 70. Her books retain their charm, as is seen by their continuing popularity. Only the first three “Katy” books are easily found – Coolidge’s other books are fairly rare and tend to be expensive. I note that The Two Dollar Rare Book Store is in Cleveland, Ohio – Coolidge’s birthplace. Perhaps someone might be lucky enough to find a rare Susan Coolidge there for a pathetically small amount of money…maybe.
Susan Coolidge’s books are listed below:
The “Katy” series (in chronological order):
Other works (approximately in chronological order):