Barbara Newhall Follett's life and letters
I invite visitors to Farksolia to share your thoughts about Barbara Follett here.
It is such a shame that the life of such a gifted young writer as Barbara was, was cut short. Only this weekend I read about human remains that had been found in 1948, which might have been Barbara’s. There was another lady missing at the same time and I believe police said it was her, but it seems to me this other lady was not much of an outdoors person such as Barbara was. It all makes me feel very sad, because who knows how many wonderful stories have died with her??
This is a great website. I had not known about Barbara Follett. I am glad that you have created this website to preserve what is known of her work and her life. It is very sad that such a promising writer was lost at so young an age. She had a tremendous gift with words.
I am not quite sure how I got here, but I am so grateful I did. Thank you for your work on this site and for keeping Barbara Follett accessible to those that want to find out about her.
Looks like an E-book of The House Without Windows is (finally) on the web! It’s available here:
And thank you Stefan for continuing to publish more of Barbara’s work.
I have to confess to you, family of Ms. Follett: I’ve acquired the taste, and cannot get over her writing! She steals your heart! I can’t do without some piece of her work… –And, she was so young… And, I think she disappeared with all our hearts!
I admit that I’m new to this whole story, but I want to say how thankful I am that someone’s carrying on the torch. From what I’ve read thus far Follett was an exceptional individual, and the fact that her work has not been reprinted in volumes seems an abomination. I thank you for the work you do, and I hope you’ll continue to do it.
Yeah, one of the publishing companies should do that! I just tried to open my download of, “The House Without Windows,” and couldn’t; but it was open when I downloaded it, so I shouldn’t have to ask for a redo!
Thanks for the kind words, Grant. I will certainly try to keep Barbara’s flame alive here on Farksolia.
Thanks for keeping your aunt’s memory alive. My sister “disappeared” at the age of 25, abandoning two children. She resurfaced nearly 30 years later, with four additional children, living five hundred miles away from where she’d grown up. In all those years we suspected she must have died, not believing she’d never contact anybody in the family. By the time one of her grown children in the new family contacted my brother, our parents both were long dead. I can understand the frustration of Barbara’s mother in trying to l0cate her daughter all those years later. I’m wondering if anybody else in the family suspected foul play, and what Nickerson Rogers had to say for himself. I’m also wondering if anybody thought Barbara might have reunited with E. Anderson and took up another life in another country. Or if they wondered if she’d wandered into the woods and gotten lost forever. So many tragic possibilities…it’s tortuer not to know what happened to your own child. I saw my mother go through this for decades, always worrying, always wondering.
Many thanks for writing, and I’m sorry to hear your story. As for Barbara’s disappearance, all we can do is guess about what happened, unless some new piece of information miraculously surfaces. I’m sure all the possibilities crossed her mother’s mind many times over, as they have mine. My mother found it easiest to imagine that her sister headed off to the mountains to die alone, but I don’t share that way of thinking. Barbara was too full of life to want to end it all, unless she had a really terrible breakdown in December, 1939. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that she would never have contacted any member of her family if she had decided to start a new life. I also have a hard time thinking that Nick had anything to do with her death… but I could be wrong. Which leaves, possibly, an accidental death that Nick might have wanted to cover up. Or she left Brookline only to be killed by a stranger. Possibly. The possibilities never end.
I agree. I don’t believe Barbara at 25 would wander into the mountains to die alone. When my sister’s daughter finally contacted our family we learned that Patti claimed the man she had run off with prevented her from contacting any of us. Yet after she had three daughters with him, he went to prison for harboring stolen goods in his pawnshop, and she took up with yet another man and had another child, a boy. We heard nothing from her from around 1962 to around 1990. I’ve seen her only once, in 1992, though we speak on the phone and exchange greeting cards. I write for anthologies and have published several true stories about growing up together, but her disappearance left a huge gap in my life. And her continual refusal to allow my brother and I to visit her still is a problem. As a clinical social worker, I realize my sister had a borderline personality disorder, causing chaos throughout our adolescence. Nonetheless, to have an older sister suddenly disappear is a lifelong jolt. I watched the video of Sabra at Princeton in 1989, and wondered how often she, too, wondered whatever had happened to Barbara. Patti wasn’t the first person to disappear, though. Our birth mother did, too. My story about the last day I saw her has appeared in a number of anthologies and also here: http://www.fivemoreminuteswith.com/2011/03/dreaming-as-the-summers-die/
I got an introduction to Barbara Follett’s life from an article I read for an SAT prep class. After the article, there was a follow-up that described this website. She sounds like she was an amazing writer, and I have been meaning to read some of her works. Thank you for putting together this site!
Stefan, thank you for showing us this site. What you have done is magical. I can see in the eyes of your aunt she was a fascinating woman with a unique gift. The work she left behind reminds me of Emily’s “snow” left in her trunk. I will read through it and will be honored to feature her on the Emily page.
Thanks very much for stopping by, Lenore, and for your kind words. I hope your readers enjoy learning about Barbara.
I think they should do a search for Barbara. Like the TV show “Cold Case”. Maybe have private investigators search around the house where she lived to see if there are any bones or something. No disrespect intended but it is sad that such a wonderful, talented young woman would disappear like that. I guess it was a long time ago but with new technology and Barbara’s spirit, the truth may come out! They should look for Jane Doe’s that were found in the area or other during that time period…I look forward to reading all her books. Bonnie
Thank you for taking the time to develop this website together. I downloaded “The House Without Windows” from Chippy’s site and found it thoroughly engaging. Glad I was able to learn more about its author here! Cheers.
Thank you for this website, and for keeping Barbara’s amazing story alive. Can I ask who owns the rights to her books? Have they been lobbied to either reissue the material or grant a license to an independent publisher? Best Wishes, -Carl
Thank you so much for creating this website! I have always known about Barbara. My dad, Guy F. Newhall always talked about his cousin Barbara. I remember a story he said she wrote when she was 5 about a spinning wheel. My dad also had a sister Barbara and a daughter Barbara. Such a sad and beautiful story….
Thank you, I am so grateful to find this website. I cannot believe that I have never heard of this amazing writer before! I just read about Barbara Newhall Follett on my facebook feed from an article by Paul Collins on the website Lapham’s Quarterly. What an enchanting story, albeit with a sad ending. My six year old son also enjoys creating his own language, telling me his tall tales, and loves classical music and all of the composers. I look forward to reading everything written by Miss Follett.
You’re very welcome, Annabelle. I hope you enjoy your time on Farksolia. There’s quite a bit by Barbara to read here, and much more in the book I’ll be publishing for her soon(ish), “Wings!”
Yes, thanks to the Lapham Quarterly article, I now know about your aunt. I posted the article on FB and a friend posted a link to this site in the comments. The article was fascinating and sad. I’m glad to learn someone is keeping Barbara’s work alive. I look forward to reading more.
The BoingBoing.net article directed me to the Lapham Quarterly and then to this site. I’m not only surprised that I’ve never heard of this fascinating author, I am deeply puzzled about her father’s withdrawal from her life and how she and her mother ended up in poverty. Thank you for reviving interest in Barbara Follett; I’m also looking forward to reading more about her books and her mysterious life.
Thank you so much for taking the time to make this information so freely available. I want to find Barbara. I want to know what happened to her. Going to spend some time reading her words. I too found your site from the Lapham Quarterly article. And what a treasure it is.
Just read her story while randomly looking for women authors from the 20s and 30s. How mysterious! I had a thought though… I’ve read that a lot of times, people who ‘disappear’ usually end up in the same line of work they were in before. Is it possible that she could have changed her name and still wrote novels? Some days I wish I had the fancy equipment crime solvers on TV have! I would love to do a search!
I have only just found out about her, in the last half hour. Instantly I get the impression she might have been a little like Sylvia Plath. Being a women at that time was expected to marry and have children, this would have been even more so in Barbara’s time. She was clearly an academic and creative like Sylvia but not allowed by convention to follow this as she would have wanted, which may explain her actions. I hope she did find some other happy life, not like Sylvia’s choice. I have downloaded her book and will make an effort to have a read at it.
I have known about her my whole life…. and as I learned about other women writers of her day, I too made that connection to Sylvia…..
What are these mountains she is thought to have ventured off to? There are no mountains of any consequence near suburban Brookline. She would have had to hitchhike nearly 100 miles to any real mountains in northwestern Mass (such as Mt. Greylock) or north to NH (Mt. Monadnock or farther to the White Mountains). Mt. Wachusett outside Worcester is little more than a Piedmont and frequented by hikers and skiers; surely her body would have been found. I suspect foul play at a time when forensic investigation was in its infancy and her husband was merely taken at his word.
If she headed to the mountains, I think it would be to those in New Hampshire, probably by a Boston & Maine train.
Family lore says Southern NH…. she was a second cousin or some such to my Dad. Susan Newhall
So happy I ended up here. There is something so beautiful and intriguing about her. I hope Barbara found her peace, wherever she went. Thank you for keeping her memories and image alive.
Does anyone know the full name of E. Anderson. I used to arrest shoplifters and do minor investigations. It seems obvious to me that having dedicated her book to Anderson, and realizing that her husband was a mistake who no longer loved her, she would follow her romantic inclinations and head West to him. She was an adventurer, and used to surviving with no money, and $30 was still a month’s pay then. She had quarreled with her parents, and knew they didn’t approve of him; so of course she didn’t tell them. Following up on Mr. Anderson seems the obvious way to find Barbara. Maybe she died on her way to him. Maybe she found him in Alaska, and he rejected her; and she died soon afterwards of pneumonia. Ships’ logs would normally have info on anyone signed onboard, and they are typically kept as official records on a permanent basis. I think it should be possible to discover a great deal about Mr. Anderson — where he lived and died. I think if you find him, you will find Barbara. I feel a great affinity with her. I too grew up alone with books, and headed West to find a lost love when I left the Navy. RIP Barbara, wherever you rest.
Anderson’s first name was Edward, and Laura Smith’s recently published book “The Art of Vanishing” tells the tragic story of his final days. He died in an apparent suicide in 1937.
I have only discovered the existence of this marvellous author within the last two days, and have already downloaded and read The House Without Windows from chippy’s website. What a beautiful and sublime read. I am tempted to create my own ebooks for personal use from the materials you have kindly transcribed and uploaded here. I really hope they can be re-published some day in ebook and hard copy form.
Hi Stefan. Have you considered submitting your DNA to ancestry.com to see if you get any hits of possible relatives that you are unaware of? Might be worth a shot.
I’ve considered the idea but have decided not to.
Hello Thank you for this site!
I was deeply moved seeing pictures of my grandmother Alice Russell with Barbara—especially ones taken of them together in front of the house where I grew up in South Pasadena, CA. I was young so the details of Barbara’s living with Alice are vague, but the image of her and Barbara taken the day after she cut her hair offers a window into their close personal relationship.
Barbara may have been drawn to Alice because of her book “Strangers in the Desert” and was seeking shelter from the storm that raged in her. Those that offer great works of art and literature never die— they live on in our hearts and continue to inspire!
Many thanks for writing, Renny. I wish I could’ve met your grandmother, who was such an important figure in Barbara’s life. Barbara’s many letters to ADR are things of beauty, but unfortunately the ones she wrote to Barbara are lost, I think. Alice published “Strangers in the Desert” in 1938, so several years after Barbara’s time in Pasadena. I suspect the Durands are based on the Folletts.
She is so cute. As a baby she looks a lot like my daughter. And she’s such a creative soul. She seems like a one in a million, gem of a person. I’m so sorry to hear how things ended. I hope your family receives closure and answers someday.
Just discovered Barbara’s work and I am absolutely fascinated. I read references to her poems, but I cannot find any on this site, only stories, short pieces etc. Did I miss them somewhere? Thanks for any help finding them.
You’re right, I need to organize Barbara’s poems and post them on Farksolia. I included a few in “Barbara Newhall Follett: A Life in Letters”, and “Poppy Island” was in McCurdy’s book. But they should be here, too.
There is a United States government website called NamUs with missing and unidentified people. (Just a general warning the unidentified may have graphic images of the deceased for identification purposes). I tried to submit Barbara at one point but it may not be in consideration unless a family member submits her information. I would like to see her on the NamUs website so that people know about her. Submitting DNA is the fastest way to identify someone. I hope you’ll consider submitting her information. The CharleyProject.org is also a site dedicated to helping people with missing and unidentified loved ones. Websleuths is a blog website that helps people have an open discussion about missing and unidentified people and I’d love to invite everyone to join us to discuss Barbara’s case.
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