Susan Coolidge
What Katy Did Next

"There are moments when it is a fine thing to be tall. On this occasion Katy's long legs and arms served her an excellent turn. Nothing but a Daddy Longlegs ever climbed so fast or so wildly as she did now." (What Katy Did)

Susan Coolidge was born Sarah Chauncy Woolsey in Ohio State. Her family had close connections with Yale which was and remains a university of great prestige. Coolidge spent the American Civil War as a nurse and only after this time became a writer. She published her first novel, A New Year's Bargain (1871) to little success. However, fortune was very much on her side at this time because her editor was by chance also the editor of Louisa M. Alcott. Alcott had published her extremely popular juvenile classic Little Women (1868-9) just a few years previously and become very famous as a result. With the editor's backing and a suggestion that she ditch her personal aims and write children's fiction of the same kind that Alcott had had such success with, Coolidge attempted to mimic the style. She did so with great aplomb, producing What Katy Did (1872).

Four sequels followed, documenting the life of Katy Carr from childhood through European travels to marriage: What Katy Did At School (1873), What Katy Did Next (1886), Clover (1888) and In The High Valley (1891). The names of the first three books were a pun on the name of the insect, the "katydid". It is said that its grasshopper-like noises actually inspired Coolidge. Like Alcott, she based her characters on herself and her family, with Katy representing Coolidge herself. She did not marry, but instead spent her time writing and enjoying social events. She is also notable for editing the correspondence between Jane Austen and Fanny Burney.

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