Lois Phillips Hudson was born in Jamestown, North Dakota on August 24th, 1927, to Carl Wayne and Aline Runner Phillips; she was the eldest of three daughters born to the couple. Aline Runner was a teacher with a degree in chemistry, but left the field to become a farm wife when she married Carl, who was a largely self-educated man. The Phillips family lived and farmed outside Cleveland, North Dakota until, ruined by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, they were forced to migrate to Washington State in 1935. On their journey, they spent several months as migrant workers moving from location to location, following the crops’ picking seasons for available work. During this time, the Phillips girls were considered outsiders in the communities which they passed through, and their educations were not taken seriously by the schools they were placed in, as is depicted in the short story “Children of the Harvest.” On arriving finally in Seattle, they found a small house in the Ballard neighborhood, where Carl operated a gas station.
Ultimately, the family bought the farm of a man who was unable to pay his taxes. The farm was located on the East Side of Lake Washington, outside the town of Redmond. Lois became the first editor of the Redmond Recorder as an 18 year old in the 1940′s. She went on to graduate from the College (now University) of Puget Sound in Tacoma, where she edited the yearbook. After spending a year teaching junior high school English in Shelton, Washington, she had saved enough money to enter the master’s degree program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her lack of funds necessitated her completing the degree in one year.
She married Randolph Hudson, a fellow Cornell graduate student in English, in 1952, and the couple moved to California, where their two daughters., Laura and Lucy, were born. Laura Hudson passed away in 2000 as the result of complications from lupus and cancer. Lucy Hudson, for whom the character of Lucy in The Bones of Plenty is named, is a pianist and musician currently living in California.
Dr. Hudson was granted an honorary doctorate by the North Dakota State University in 1965 and subsequently taught at both North Dakota State University and the University of Washington, from which she retired in 1992.
A prolific writer, her best known works are her novel, The Bones of Plenty, and the collection of short stories Reapers of the Dust: A Prairie Chronicle. Both chronicled the years of the Great Depression in our agricultural heartland; both were also highly autobiographical, though Dr. Hudson often reminded people that they were in fact works of fiction. Other works include an as yet unpublished novel about the early history of California, The Kindly Fruits of the Earth. Additionally, Dr. Hudson published a multitude of short stories in a number of publications both nationally (Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Reporter) and regionally/locally in Washington (Puget Soundings, a magazine published by the Junior League of Seattle).
Dr. Hudson was an active environmentalist, who, in addition to publishing many articles on the subject, performed service as a salmon watcher on the Sammamish River. She also wrote extensively on the changes that took place in her chosen home city of Redmond, Washington, over a 65 year period; a topic she was invited to speak about to the Redmond Historical Society. While living in California, she wrote a piece entitled “Four-Lane Menace To California’s Redwoods” (published August 12, 1965 in The Reporter), about a freeway project that would cut through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
An avid bicyclist, Dr. Hudson had the habit of writing in the morning, and then taking a ten mile bike ride along the Sammamish River in the afternoon. Her love of the outdoors extended to hiking, swimming and canoing.
Lois Phillips Hudson passed away on December 24, 2010, but her legacy and relevance live on. Current readers of her novel, The Bones of Plenty, are quickly able to draw parallels to issues in our world today.
Lawrence Welk also received an honorary doctorate from NDSU in 1965. At the time, he traded Dr. Hudson an autographed album in exchange for an autographed copy of The Bones of Plenty.