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Brown, Abbie Farwell, 1871-1927. Papers of Abbie Farwell Brown, 1859-1927: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: A-12
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Abbie Farwell Brown, 1871-1927
Title: Papers of Abbie Farwell Brown, 1859-1927
Date(s): 1859-1927
Quantity: 1.46 linear feet (3 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, etc., of Abbie Farrell Brown, children's book author.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 53-50, 54-8
This collection of papers was presented to the Women's Archives of Radcliffe College in 1953, and in 1954, by Miss Emily Steinbach (41 West Cedar Street, Boston, Massachusetts) who was the executrix of Miss Brown's estate.

Processing Information:

Processed: 1958
By: Doreen Potter Hanna

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Abbie Farwell Brown as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Abbie Farwell Brown Papers, 1859-1927; item description, dates. A-12, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Such biographical material as is found with the papers is unorganized, and for the most part must be gathered from newspaper articles. These sketches published in the Sunday issues of the Boston Post, December 14, 1902, and Boston Herald, January 10, 1904, give appraisals and pictures of such contemporary writers as Katherine Lee Bates, Margaret Deland, Alice Brown, and others. Abby Farwell Brown was born in Boston, August 21, 1871, in the family home on Beacon Hill, one of the two daughters of Benjamin and Clara (Neal) Brown. Her entire life was spent in this home, the season's interspersed with holidays in the nearby countryside, or with travelling in Europe. She was surrounded from childhood with a family tradition that was New England to the core.
Of her school associations the papers show she was valedictorian at Bowdoin School in 1886. This was followed by attendance at the Latin School in Boston. Here she was co-organizer and editor of a school paper, "The Jabberwock", to which she made frequent contributions until graduation in 1891. During the years 1891-1892 and 1893-1894 Abby Brown was enrolled at Radcliffe College, and took a leading part in all the literary and dramatic activities on campus.
Miss Brown had a reputation in literary circles before leaving college. She had published in magazines many of her poems and short stories. In 1898 and 1899 a series of articles under the heading of "Girl Gossip" were published in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, and signed with the pseudonym, Jean Neal. The first trip to Europe in 1899 provides the stimulus and inspiration for her first, published, children's book, "The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts", in 1900. Although this was followed by many other books none appears to have been so successful.
Frequently Miss Brown was asked to lecture. Usually her talks were about the writing of books for children, a subject upon which she held decided views. Her club memberships included the Saturday Morning Club, Folk Lore Society, Author's League, Poetry Club of America, and the New England Poetry Club of which she was president at one time.
Two outstanding friendships are apparent from these papers; one with Josephine Preston Peabody (Mrs. Lionel Marks), the performance of whose prize play Miss Brown attended in Stratford-on-Avon in 1910. The second was with Caroline Ticknor. Both of these women had interests and backgrounds which paralleled her own. Included with these papers is a tribute to Abby Farwell Brown which Miss Ticknor wrote, and published in the Boston Transcript, March 23, 1927, following her death earlier in the month.
Lacking in the collection is the correspondence which would have revealed more intimately the person, her charm and character. Only a few letters are included. Among them are notes from Robert Hillyer, Grace Hazard Conkling, Senator Lodge, Katherine Lee Bates, Jessie Rittenhouse, and Gamaliel Bradford. Included are four notes of sympathy sent to Ethel Brown after her sister's death in March, 1927.
Abby Farwell Brown was a prolific writer. There is here a very complete chronological collection of her stories, poems, and plays, beginning with her contributions to the "Catkin" in 1879, and continuing to the end of her life. Many of her poems were set to music and appear in collections of songs for school use. Most of her stories were written for children and it was in the field of children's books, perhaps, that she achieved her greatest success.


Papers include diaries of two trips abroad in 1899 and 1906; a charming drawing book; 7 volumes of poems in manuscript; manuscript of "The Boy Mozart"; unpublished; manuscript of the May Queen," with music in ms by Helen A. Clarke; letters from eminent poets'; material by and about her mother, Clara Neal Brown.
Also much published material.
These papers are contained in four file boxes and an oversize package, the latter being the libretto for the children's opera, "The May Queen", written by Abby Farwell Brown, and the accompanying music composed by Helen A. Clarke. Chronologically arranged the papers cover the years from 1859 to 1927. There are included around six hundred loose items such as family photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, and school mementos, as well as poems and short stories. Ten notebooks containing drawings and poetry by Miss Brown are among the papers, also two diaries, two scrapbooks of book reviews, and a record book of royalties received.
The earliest papers in the collection are those of Clara Neal, the mother of Abby Farwell Brown, when she was a school girl at Hampton Academy in New Hampshire. These and the copies of the literary magazine, The Catkin, which she produced cooperatively with her children, furnish an insight into the source of those inherent artistic and literary inclinations found in her daughters. Nothing in the collection indicates what were the influences of Abby's father in her development.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

American literature--20th century
Children's literature
Europe--Description and travel
Manuscripts (for publication)
Bates, Katharine Lee, 1859-1929
Brown, Clara Neal
Brown, Ethel C.
Clarke, Helen Archibald, -1926
Daniels, Mabel W. (Mabel Wheeler), 1878-1971
Neal, Clara
Neal, Jean
Peabody, Josephine Preston, 1874-1922
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Ticknor, Caroline, 1866-1937
Underhill, Ann