Beloved British author and illustrator Helen Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866 to Rupert and Helen Potter in Kensington, London.
Although most famous for The Tale of Peter Rabbit and her other enchanting children’s books – of which four are sold every minute – Beatrix was a woman of many talents.
To celebrate 150 years since her birth, here are six things you might not know about her:
1. Many pets
Beatrix and her brother, Bertram, grew up surrounded by animals.
Their many pets included mice, frogs, lizards, snakes, a bat and, of course, rabbits.
Both she and Bertram often sketched their animals.
2. The real Peter Rabbit
Beatrix’s first rabbit was named Benjamin Bouncer and apparently he had a penchant for buttered toast.
He even went on the Potter family holiday in Scotland, where he was taken for walks on a lead.
Beatrix’s next rabbit was Peter Piper and she took him everywhere.
He also performed tricks.
2. No school
Beatrix was educated at home by an art teacher called Miss Cameron and a number of governesses.
One of these governesses was Annie Moore, who Beatrix remained close to, even originally writing the story of Peter Rabbit in a picture letter to Annie’s son, Noel.
Beatrix is quoted as saying: “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”
3. Talented botanist
As well as her fondness for art and literature, Beatrix was invited to study fungi at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew.
She investigated their cultivation and growth, and produced hundreds of detailed botanical drawings, becoming an adept scientific illustrator.
She even developed her own theory of how fungi spores reproduce and wrote a paper which was initially rejected by William Thiselton-Dyer, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Beatrix continued her research and, after a year, George Massee, a fungi expert who worked at Kew Gardens, agreed to present her paper to the Linnean Society of London, as women were not allowed to do so at that time.
The paper was never published but scientists recognise her contribution to mycological research to this day.
As well as using her artistic talents for scientific diagrams, Beatrix drew her own illustrations for some of her favourite stories including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Cinderella.
Some of her earliest published works were designs and illustrations for greeting cards.
5. Business woman
Undeterred by rejection from several publishers, Beatrix self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, printing 250 copies for family and friends in December 1901.
Her success caused publishers Frederick Warne & Co., who had previously turned it down, to reconsider.
They offered to publish the story if it were re-illustrated in colour.
The first Peter Rabbit doll was designed and created by Beatrix herself in 1903.
She immediately registered the doll at the patent office, making Peter Rabbit the world’s oldest licensed literary character.
6. Country living
Beatrix owned 15 farms and took a very active part in running them, describing herself as happiest when with her farm animals.
On her farms in the Lake District, she bred Herdwick sheep and won a number of prizes for them at local shows.
She even became the first elected female president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association in 1943.
When she died in the same year, Beatrix left all 15 farms and over 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust.
Hill Top Farm has been kept exactly as it was when she lived in it, as per her wishes.
It plays host to thousands of visitors every year.
What is your favourite Beatrix Potter book? Let us know in the Comments section below.