Alice Hegan Rice, who published as Alice Caldwell Hegan, was born on January 11th, 1870, in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
As a child, her natural creative talents ensured she would always be able to entertain family members with impromptu stories. She had her first article published in a local magazine whilst she was still only 15.
Her well-to-do upbringing was brought into focus while helping a Sunday School that was in a slum in Louisville called the "Cabbage Patch". A group of troublesome boys disrupted the session, but Alice was able to calm matters by telling them a made-up story. Such was their appetite that she continued this with further outlandish tales of pirates and gangsters. This introduction to the world of poverty and the underprivileged was, in effect, life changing. It would also later become the basis for her novel, 'Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch'. The novel became the best-selling book of 1902. It was turned into a play and filmed four times in the years that followed.
Such was her popularity that many of her works were translated into German, French, Danish, and Swedish, and three turned into plays.
Alice married Cale Young Rice, a poet and playwright, on December 18th, 1902. Much of their time was spent travelling the world, they were also a well-respected couple on the New York and London literary scenes.
Alice's Aunt Fannie, who was a teacher in Japan during the early 1900's, had written to her often with her views and insights into Japan and its War with Russia in 1904-05. It was Alice's idea to turn the letters into a book. She removed all the personal identifying details and created the pseudonym Frances Little. The title came from the children she taught who called her their 'Lady of the Decoration' every time Fannie 'pinned on her little enameled watch'. Alice's editing had turned her Aunt Fannie into the best-selling author of 1907.
Alice's social activism drove her to help improve the working and living conditions of the poor, which brought about the founding of the Cabbage Patch Settlement House in Louisville in 1910.
Alice Caldwell Hegan died on February 10th, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky.