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COLLECTION Identifier: A-12

Papers of Abbie Farwell Brown, 1859-1927


Correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, etc., of Abbie Farrell Brown, children's book author.


  • Creation: 1859-1927

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

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.


1.46 linear feet ((3 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder)

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abroad in 1899 and 1906; a charming drawing book; 7 volumes of poems in manuscript; manuscript of "The Boy Mozart"; unpublished; manuscript of the May Queen," with music in ms by Helen A. Clarke; letters from eminent poets'; material by and about her mother, Clara Neal Brown.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 including scores of music with lyrics by Brown.

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 Abbie 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 Abbie 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 Abbie's father in her development.


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. Abbie 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 seasons 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 Abbie 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 Abbie 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.

Abbie 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.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 53-50, 54-8, 2018-M90

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. Folder 65 was transferred from the Radcliffe Alumnae Pamphlet collection in 2018.


  1. Box 1: 1-28
  2. Box 2: 29-42
  3. Box 3: 43-63, 65
  4. Box 4: volumes 1-12

Processing Information

Processed: 1958

By: Doreen Potter Hanna

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
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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