Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is known for her books on early New England, but she is not a native of the region. She grew up among the potato farms and sagebrush of eastern Idaho in a town that was on the main highway to Yellowstone National Park. On clear days, which were common, you could see the Grand Tetons in the distance. Her western upbringing accounts for her Rocky Mountain accent and for her fascination with the way New England history came to dominate national culture. She remembers in second grade sitting cross-legged in a pseudo-Indian costume reciting lines from Longfellow’s Hiawatha, and she remembers driving through the lava-filled moonscape of southern Idaho singing “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go.”
She came to New England in 1960 with her husband, Gael Urich, who completed an Sc.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. She completed her own graduate work at the University of New Hampshire while raising her five children. She came to Harvard in 1995 and now lives in Cambridge.