Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.
Ina Coolbrith was born Josephine Donna Smith (niece of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith), in Nauvoo, Illinois on March 10, 1841. Her father died of pneumonia five months later, and after her uncle's murder, which coincided with the Mormons' expulsion from Illinois, Josephine's mother took her to St. Louis and married William Pickett. In 1851 the family traveled overland to California; in the process Josephine entered the new state on horseback with famed scout Jim Beckwourth. Settling in Los Angeles, Josephine began writing poetry and, after a short marriage, moved to the San Francisco area. There, she shortened her first name to Ina, and took her mother's maiden name. Ina became associate editor of the Overland Monthly, wrote more poetry, and became acquainted with many of the leading literary figures of the day, including Bret Harte, Joaquin Miller, and Charles Warren Stoddard. In later years she mentored Jack London and George Sterling. Coolbrith also worked as head librarian in Oakland for many years, and in 1915 was named the first Poet Laureate of California. Ina Coolbrith died on February 29, 1928. Handwritten poem by Ina Coolbrith to Leone Cadenasso dated April 2, 1907. Coolbrith Poem Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library. California State Library, California History Room