Barbara Newhall Follett was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, on March 4, 1914. Her parents were the writers and literary critics, Helen (Thomas) Follett and (Roy) Wilson Follett (Wilson was my grandfather). When Barbara was born he was teaching English at Dartmouth College. In 1917 the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island where Wilson taught at Brown University, and a year or two later they moved to New Haven, Connecticut where he briefly worked for Yale University Press before Alfred A. Knopf hired him as an editor at his young publishing house in New York City.
Helen schooled Barbara at home, believing she would receive a better education if free to explore her own interests. Reading and writing were early passions, and her curriculum included corresponding with friends of the family.
A turning point in Barbara’s young life occurred when she became interested in the clacking and ringing of her father’s typewriter. She was four years old. In a very short time she’d taught herself to touch type and was composing stories, poems, and letters on her own machine. When she was a little over five she wrote to Mr. Oberg, proprietor of an antiques shop in Providence:
The goldfinches come every afternoon and eat their supper on the clump of bachelor’s-buttons right on the left-hand side of the path that leads from the back door to our road.… Read more
176 Armory Street, New Haven, Connecticut March 7, 1928
I did receive your letter, yesterday afternoon, and I read it (as you may suppose) a good many times before I came to any conclusion or conclusions concerning it. And now that I think that I have, I feel that I must point out two ideas in that letter that seem like ill-concealed weaknesses, and that cannot help but make me suspicious. (1) Because you do not give any clue as to what your answer almost was, and especially because you call attention to the fact that you have given no clue, I am tempted to think that the answer you had in your mind was one that you are now ashamed to reveal. For, had the intended answer been the right one, why all the secrecy about it? (2) Because the question of the divorce was brought up, that seems to me to put all idea of choice out of the picture, and it also seems to betray what was in your mind. For, in the desiring of a divorce from Helen (and I shouldn’t have let her give it to you, anyhow), how is it possible that this answer which “rang clear as a bell” in your mind was the right one?… Read more
I apologize for the poor quality of the image (it’s from a faded 35mm slide from my mother’s collection), but for the Follett family this photograph is gold. (L-R): My grandfather Wilson Follett (1887-1963); his third wife (my grandmother) Margaret Whipple Follett (1907-1992); my mother Jane Follett (1935-2010); Grace Parker Follett (1911-1995; the only child of my grandfather’s first marriage to Grace Huntington Parker, who sadly died about three weeks after Grace was born); and Barbara Newhall Follett (1914-???), daughter of Wilson and his second wife, Helen Thomas Follett. The photograph was taken at the Follett home in Bradford, Vermont, on February 9, 1937, probably by Barbara’s husband Nickerson Rogers.