Beloved writer, illustrator and conservationist Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866. Growing up in an affluent family afforded Beatrix a privileged childhood spent cultivating a passion for art and nature.
As a young girl, Beatrix enjoyed sketching animals and later invented stories that combined her love for both animals and the English countryside. In 1902, she published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which launched her career as a children’s author.
“I hold that a strongly marked personality can influence descendants for generations.”
Following the success of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix went on to publish more than 20 books for young audiences including Jemima Puddle-Duck, Benjamin Bunny and several others, which have all become children’s classics.
Beatrix died in 1943, leaving behind an incredible fortune, in fact, she left over 4,000 acres to the National Trust. But even more than a large fortune, Beatrix left behind a legacy, one that will continue on for generations to come.
Today, on what would have been her 150th birthday, we’re celebrating the pioneering author by sharing…
10 Things You May Not Know About Beatrix Potter
A teenage Beatrix Potter with her pet mouse Xarifa, 1885, from Cotsen Children’s Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University
1. As a young child, Beatrix and her brother Ewan took care of a menagerie of animals, including rabbits, frogs, mice, bats and even a hedgehog.
2. At age 14, Beatrix began keeping a diary where she wrote down her thoughts, ideas and opinions on the places she had visited. All of her entries were written in a secret code that she created.
3. In addition to art and nature, Beatrix was an avid reader and was inspired by many books, including: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley; Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense;Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; and the Brer Rabbit stories by Joel Chandler Harris.
Lactarius blennius, Beech Milkcap illustration by Beatrix Potter
4. Beatrix was a devoted and passionate botanist, she collected fossils, and was became fairly well known and respected for her contribution to mycology – the study of fungi.
5. Before she became an author, Beatrix had aspirations to develop her scientific interests professionally. An uncle helped her to try and get into the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected because she was a girl.
6. Beatrix would send illustrated letters to the children of her former governess, Annie Carter. In one letter (dated September 1893) Beatrix tells the story of four rabbits called Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. This letter became the foundation for The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
7. Before her success as an author, Beatrix was a paid illustrator, selling some of her work to be used for greeting cards.
8. Beatrix was a successful breeder of Herdwick sheep, and was celebrated for her champion-winning rams.
9. Not only was Beatrix a writer, illustrator and conservationist, she was also a savvy business woman. Seeing first-hand the love readers had for her animal books, she designed, patented and produced a Peter Rabbit doll, and gave approval for other items to be made, such as board games, tea-sets, wall-paper and figurines.
10. In 1913, at the age of 47, Beatrix married William Heelis; they had no children. Following her marriage, Beatrix wrote only four more books. Although she continued to write and draw, it was for her own self edification, and spent most of her time committed to family, farming and conservation.