Harriet Huntington Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Harriet Doerr (dowr) was born Harriet Huntington in Pasadena, California, on April 8, 1910. She was the granddaughter of railroad magnate Henry Edwards Huntington. She loved her large family and the house in which she was born; in fact, she memorialized this house in her essay “A Sleeve of Rain,” which she wrote for The Writer on Her Work, Volume II (1991), edited by Janet Sternburg. She wrote poetry while in high school and in 1927 began attending Smith College. As a sophomore she transferred to Stanford University, where Albert Doerr was studying engineering. They married on November 15, 1930, and she left the university with only one five-credit history course lacking for her B.A. degree. The couple had one son and one daughter. Harriet Doerr occupied her spare hours by writing character sketches in a neighborhood women’s writing group.{$S[A]Huntington Doerr, Harriet;Doerr, Harriet}

Except for a total of fifteen years spent in Mexico and a brief stay in Philadelphia during World War II, Doerr spent her life in California. Her trips to Mexico with her husband when he worked for a family mining business left a deep impression on her. She acknowledged that although her first novel, Stones for Ibarra, was not strictly autobiographical, it was the years spent in Mexico that provided her insights into the Mexican villagers’ way of life, which is at the core of this work.

After her husband died in 1972, she decided at sixty-five to return to college, first attending Scripps College in...

(The entire section is 626 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Harriet Doerr was born in Pasadena, California, in 1910; her grandfather was Henry Edwards Huntington, the railroad tycoon, whose reputation as both a philanthropist and a robber baron would always haunt Doerr. Doerr’s father was Howard Huntington, Henry Huntington’s only son; she has five brothers and sisters. During her childhood, her grandfather’s estate, now the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, was a playground for her and her brothers and sisters. She also remembers Christmas parties at her Uncle Fred’s place in Long Beach, the Bixby Ranch, center of the historic twenty-eight-thousand-acre Rancho Los Alamitos.

Doerr had a tutor when she was a child but entered Polytechnic Elementary School in Pasadena in the fourth grade. She went to Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts, in 1927 but returned to Pasadena the following year. She then traveled to Palo Alto, where Albert Doerr, whom she would marry in 1930, was attending Stanford University. Their first child, Mike, was born in 1931, and their daughter Martha was born in 1935. Beginning in the 1930’s, Doerr and her husband made several extended trips to Mexico to oversee her husband’s family mining business there; much of her fiction derives from the times she lived in Mexico, particularly a year-long sojourn in 1950.

After her husband’s death in 1972, on a dare from her children, Doerr went back to school, taking courses at Scripps College and then attending Stanford University on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, during which time she received encouragement from Wallace Stegner and John L’Heureux to write Stones for Ibarra.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Harriet Doerr was born Harriet Huntington in Pasadena, California, one of six children of a well-to-do family. She grew up in a household with gardeners and cooks. Her father died when she was eleven; her mother never worked outside the home. In 1926, when Harriet was sixteen, she first met her future husband, Albert Doerr. After graduating from high school in 1927, she went east to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She attended Smith for a year, and then, continuing her history major, she transferred to Stanford University, where Albert was studying. They married in 1930, and Doerr left Stanford without graduating. For the next many years, she spent much of her time raising their two children—a son, Michael, and a daughter, Martha.

In 1935, Doerr and her husband, now an engineer, went to Mexico together for the first of what would be many visits to oversee his family’s mining interests. Albert had been born in Mexico, and when his father died in 1950 he and Harriet moved to Mexico City for a year to take charge of extensive family land holdings, including the copper mine that would later figure in Stones for Ibarra. After subsequently living in California for ten years, they returned to live in a small town in Mexico. Over the course of several trips and sojourns, Doerr spent a total of fifteen years in Mexico. Other than the Mexican years and a brief stay in Philadelphia, Doerr lived in California.

In 1962 Albert Doerr was diagnosed with leukemia. He died in 1972. Three years later, rising to the challenge given by her son and daughter, Harriet Doerr returned to college...

(The entire section is 662 words.)