Alice Hegan Rice

Born: January 11, 1870

Died: February 10, 1942

Alice Hegan Rice was a Sunday school teacher at the city mission and a volunteer social worker in an area of Louisville known as the Cabbage Patch.(Henson 2001) She achieved worldwide fame with her novel Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch published in 1901. With the help of Anne Crawford Flexner, Rice adapted Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch as a play for Macauley's Theatre. The play ran for seven years in the United States and two years in England with four movie versions of the story. Over her career she wrote twenty books including a couple sequels to the Mrs. Wiggs story.

Kentucky was already very much on the literary map, with James Lane Allen's charming stories of the Bluegrass region and John Fox's stirring tales of the mountains. But Louisville was practically a virgin field. It was a pleasant city, intensely southern in customs and sympathies, yet sufficiently in touch with the North to be liberal and progressive. Picturesque and original characters abounded, and almost every porticoed mansion harbored a romance. But it was not with these that I was chiefly concerned. The poor still held my interest, and I preferred to seek the humbler quarters inhabited by children of nature who had been a bit abused by their mother. The business of familiarizing myself with a queer neighborhood, of discovering new ways of thinking and living, and of meeting amusing characters and mastering their unfamiliar vocabularies, never waned in interest.

I had a subject ready to my hand. For years a funny old woman had been coming to our back door for food, and stopping to talk to whoever would listen. She had a good-for-nothing husband who, she said, was "just as bad as a poor man could be," and a brood of children of whom she loved to discourse. She was dirty and improvident, but gay and courageous, and her sayings and doings became part of our family history. It was easy to build a story around her and the other characters I knew in the Cabbage Patch...

First I wrote my manuscript in longhand, carefully skirting the entries in the old ledger and adorning the margins with sketches as I went along. When the last page was reached, I brought the tale to an end like a sculptor who must fit his subject to the size of his marble.

Next came the far more arduous task of copying my story on the typewriter, an achievement regarded by the family as much more remarkable than the composition itself.

In those days best sellers were not so numerous as they are to-day, and very little advance advertising was done. [Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch] was launched without comment in a modest first edition of two thousand. In a month, another two thousand were printed; at the end of six months the presses were turning out as many as forty thousand copies a month, and the Cabbage Patch was becoming known the world over.(Rice 1940)


"Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice" CS 128842, Caufield & Shook Collection, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.
"The Author of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch." Courier - Journal, October 22, 1905, B4.
"Cabbage Patch Residents' Settlement House." Courier - Journal, March 19, 1911, 3, 12.
"The Death of Alice Hegan Rice Has Saddened Louisville." Courier - Journal, February 22, 1942, 69.
"Mrs. Alice Hegan Rice Dies." Courier - Journal, February 11, 1942, 1.
Rice, Alice Hegan. The Inky Way. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1940.