Today I learned that Susan Coolidge, author of What Katy Did and other novels, wasn't the real name of the author, Sarah Chauncey Woolsey. However, I couldn't find any clear information on why she adopted this pseudonym. It's not a male pseudonym, as in the case of many other female 19th-century authors. I wondered if it might have been something to do with US president Calvin Coolidge, but he was born in the same year that What Katy Did was published, so evidently not.

Why did Sarah Chauncey Woolsey decide to write under a pseudonym? And where did the name Susan Coolidge come from?

1 Answer 1


According to "Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (Susan Coolidge)" (2003) by Deidre Johnson:

Coolidge continued her friendship with Jackson after the war, and, in the late 1860s, the Woolsey family spent time near Jackson in Newport, Rhode Island. There, Coolidge met other literary figures, including Thomas Wentworth Higginson. In 1870, Coolidge and Jackson vacationed in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Coolidge had already published several poems and now began serious work on her first book, A New Year's Bargain. Her biographical entry in The Junior Book of Authors notes that she "sketched the outline" while "seated on a fallen tree in a grove". Woolsey adopted the pseudonym "Susan Coolidge" as an inside joke: her sister Jane had used the pen name "Margaret Coolidge" for some stories, and Sarah decided she would "be a sister of the famous Margaret Coolidge" (Darling 251). When the book (actually a collection of short stories) was published in 1871, it met with a favorable reception, earning praise from Jean Ingelow and Christina Rossetti, and so impressed a British publisher that he "ordered plates from Roberts Brothers at once" (Kilgour 108, 292).

^_^ First page of results for Susan Coolidge pseudonym, higher up when I searched for Susan Coolidge pseudonym why.

The reference is to Frances C. Darling's "Susan Coolidge" in The Hewins Lectures, 1947–1962, which can also be read in The Horn Book Magazine, June 1959, pp. 232–245:

The name Susan Coolidge was signed in fun to her first published work, as her younger sister Jane had already written stories under the pen name of Margaret Coolidge. “I,” said Sarah, “will be a sister of the famous Margaret Coolidge.”’

Darling does not identify her source for this claim.

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    Nice find! (I didn't find this when doing the same search, fwiw.) Although it now begs the extended question: why did her sister use the pen name Margaret Coolidge? :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 3:33
  • That I was unable to figure out. :-p She used her own name for other books she wrote. Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 3:55

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