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Harriet Elizabeth Prescott was born in Maine and raised in Newburyport, Massachusetts. She attended the Putnam Free School in Newburyport and Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire. To help support the family, she became a writer for Boston-area newspapers, encouraged by Thomas W.S. Higginson, a social reformer and author. In 1859, her short story about Parisian life, “In a Cellar,” was published by The Atlantic Monthly; its success enabled her to become a regular contributor of essays, stories, travel sketches, and poetry to leading national periodicals. Her debut novel Sir Rohan’s Ghost was published anonymously in 1860. In 1865, she married Richard S. Spofford, a Boston lawyer, and lived with him on Deer Island, near Amesbury, Massachusetts. She befriended many women writers, including Nora Perry, and her home became a literary gathering place. Her works over the years included The Amber Gods (1863), a collection of stories, the novel Azarian: An Episode (1864), New-England Legends (1871), A Scarlet Poppy, and Other Stories (1894), Old Madame, and Other Tragedies (1900), Old Washington (1906), The Fairy Changeling (1910), A Little Book of Friends (1916), and The Elder’s People (1920).
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