Opal Whiteley

Opal Whiteley

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Opal Whiteley

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Opal Whiteley (December 11, 1897—February 16, 1992) was an American nature writer and diarist whose childhood journal was first published in 1920 as The Story of Opal in serialized form in the Atlantic Monthly, then later that same year as a book with the title The Story of Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart.

Whiteley's true origins and the veracity of her diary were disputed during her lifetime, and continue to be questioned today.


Whiteley claimed to be the daughter of Henri, Prince of Orléans, who died unmarried in 1901. According to Whiteley, she was taken to Oregon in 1902 and brought to a lumber camp where she was adopted by Ed and Lizzie Whiteley. While Opal Whiteley used several names during her lifetime, the one she preferred and was later buried under was Françoise Marie de Bourbon-Orléans.

Family members claim that Opal Irene Whiteley was born in Colton, Washington, the first of five children. In 1903, after having spent almost a year in Wendling, Oregon, the Whiteley family moved to Walden, Oregon, near the town of Cottage Grove. Whiteley grew up in small towns near various lumber camps, usually in poverty.

Whiteley claimed (and her grandmother Acseh Smith concurred) that Whiteley's mother often disciplined her with severe corporal punishment. Whiteley's diary includes many accounts of punishment by "the mamma." The negative portrait of her mother caused Whiteley to become estranged...
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