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The book had belonged to my grandmother. It was old and shabby, its pages yellowed, its gray-green binding grimy and beginning to fray, and all of us kids knew it was as much as our lives were worth to touch it. The day I was finally allowed to read it was proof I was now a Big Girl and could be trusted with at least one of my mother’s treasures.

MRS. WIGGS is about the adventures of a poor but optimistic and determined widow struggling to raise a family in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of the 19th Century. It made me laugh and made me cry and, for me, it became one of those special books that all book lovers discover in childhood and carry with them in memory for life. I’m not sure I’d love it as much if I’d discovered it as an adult, but I didn’t, so I do!

The book was written by Alice Hegan Rice and published by The Century Company in 1901. The Library of Congress records it received two copies of the book on October 17, 1903. Copy 2 has been scanned and is now available as a free pdf download from the Library of Congress website.

Here’s how the book begins:

“My, but it’s nice an’ cold this mornin’! The thermometer’s done fell up to zero!”

Mrs. Wiggs made the statement as cheerfully as if her elbows were not sticking out through the boy’s coat she wore, or her teeth chattering in her head like a pair of castanets. But, then, Mrs. Wiggs was a philosopher, and the sum and substance of her philosophy lay in keeping the dust off her rose-colored spectacles.

Here's where you can get the pdf from the Library of Congress:

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