Bess Streeter Aldrich
Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881-1954)
Bess Streeter Aldrich was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
She is known as a prolific author of 200 short stories and 13 novels.
Her book Miss Bishop was made into a movie, Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941).
She moved to Elmwood, Nebraska in 1909, so both states claim her as one their own.
Events for this Author
October, 2017 -- Bess Streeter Aldrich Events
Sunday, October 15: Cedar Falls Historical Society Song of Years Cemetery Walk, 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Monday, October 16: Program on the short story "The Woman Who Was Forgotten" at the Cedar Falls Public Library at 7 pm. UNI English graduate students invite you to attend a live, radio-style adaptation of one of Aldrich's short stories.
Sunday, October 22: Screening of film Cheers for Miss Bishop, Oster Regent Theatre, 4:30 p.m.
Please watch the EVENTS page for more details and more events!
Bess Streeter Aldrich
Bess Streeter Aldrich
Bess Streeter Aldrich with her children
Bess Genevra Streeter was born February 17, 1881, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the last of eight children born to James and Mary Streeter. Bess graduated in 1901 from Iowa State Normal School, now known as the University of Northern Iowa, and taught for four years. She returned to Cedar Falls and worked as Assistant Supervisor at her alma mater, receiving an advanced degree in 1906. She married Charles Sweetzer Aldrich the following year, in 1907.
Charles Aldrich had graduated with a law degree from Iowa State University and had been one of the youngest captains in the Spanish-American War. Following the war, he served for years as a U.S. Commissioner in Alaska.
In 1909 the Aldriches and Bess's sister and brother-in-law, Clara and John Cobb, bought the American Exchange Bank in Elmwood, Nebraska, and moved there with the Aldrich's two-month-old daughter, Bess's widowed mother, and the Cobbs. Elmwood would become the locale, by whatever name she called it, of her many short stories, and it would also be the setting for some of her books.
She began writing as a child, winning a camera for a story when she was 12 and winning a $5 prize for another story at age 17. She used a pen name to write short stories until 1917 and won a prize from the Ladies' Home Journal in 1911, according to her biography. She wrote more than 100 short stories, including "The Woman Who was Forgotten" (1926) which became the basis of the book Miss Bishop (1933) and the film Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941). Her story "The Man who caught the Weather" won the O. Henry Award in 1928.
Her editor urged her to write a book, which became The Rim of the Prairie: four days after mailing off the manuscript, her husband had a stroke. She was left with four children, 4 to 14, and realized that writing was now something she must do to support her family.
"Her legacy of books and stories remains, however, continuing to fulfill her hope that as future generations read her work they will understand the joys, the struggles, and the strengths that were all a part of pioneering in the Midwest."
Her Website with Biography
Bess Streeter Aldrich House & Museum
204 East "F" St - P.O. Box 167
Elmwood NE 68349
Connection to Cedar Falls
Aldrich grew up in Cedar Falls, the youngest of eight children born to James and Mary Streeter.
She graduated in 1901 from Iowa State Normal School, now known as the University of Northern Iowa.
She taught for four years.
She then returned to Cedar Falls and worked as Assistant Supervisor at the college and received an advanced degree in 1906.
Two of her most famous and beloved novels are set in Cedar Falls: Song of Years and Miss Bishop.
"Mrs. Aldrich drew heavily upon the resources of the region surrounding her native city, Cedar Falls, Iowa; people and prairie provided a wealth of material for the plot and setting of her many novels and stories. She was keenly aware of early life on the prairie frontier, for her parents, James Wareham and Mary Wilson Streeter, were pioneers of northeastern Iowa. She gained her early education in the Cedar Falls primary and secondary schools, graduating in 1895. After earning a degree at the Iowa State Teachers College (Cedar Falls) in 1901, she taught primary grades for five years in Boone and Marshalltown, Iowa, as well as Salt Lake City, Utah."
List of Works
Mother Mason (1924)
The Rim of the Prairie (1925)
The Cutters (1926)
A Lantern in Her Hand (1928)
A White Bird Flying (1931)
Miss Bishop (1933)
Spring Came On Forever (1935)
The Man Who Caught the Weather (1936)
Song of Years (1939)
The Drum Goes Dead (1941)
The Lieutenant's Lady (1942)
Journey into Christmas (1949)
The Bess Streeter Aldrich Reader (1950)
A Bess Streeter Aldrich Treasury (1959) (posthumous)
The Collected Short Works, 1907–1919
The Collected Short Works, 1920–1954
(From her Wikipedia entry, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bess_Streeter_Aldrich
Want to find a book by Bess Streeter Aldrich?
Try the Cedar Falls Public Library: here is a list of the books they have by Aldrich.
The image above is a screen capture for the movie Cheers for Miss Bishop, which is available on YouTube.
Review of a Biography about the author. Bess Streeter Aldrich: the Dreams Are All Real. The Annals of Iowa 56 (1997), 166-167. Available at:
Bess Streeter Aldrich: A Lantern in Her Hand and Song of Years, July 22, 2010 by Kat.
A Lantern in Her Hand -- online copy of the book, on the Gutenberg website
"Why I live in a Small Town." http://www.bessstreeteraldrich.org/small_town.html
Great blog post on Aldrich and her place in midwestern literature,
Last updated March 5, 2021