Bernie Babcock (Bernie Babcock)

Bernie Babcock

Author. She was a playwright, novelist, and journalist who published around 40 books over a long literary career, while founding a natural history museum and the Arkansas Historical Society. Born Julia Burnelle Smade, she was raised in Russellville, Arkansas, from the time she was a toddler. Bernie did well in school, though the imagination she was to use as a writer once got her expelled from kindergarten for “lying”. She developed an early hatred for the evils of drink, becoming active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) while a teenager. Despite a good academic record, Bernie dropped-out of Little Rock College in 1886 to marry William Babcock. (Reflecting the new bride’s rather eclectic tastes, the first two books she bought were The Bible and Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”). Living briefly in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Bernie wrote her first play, “Mammy”, which dealt with the lingering effects of slavery; the family returned to Little Rock, where her husband’s death left her a young widow with five children to support. Bernie wrote at night, and sent poems and short stories to multiple editors; drawing on her time in the temperance movement, she published her first novel, “The Daughter of the Republican”, in 1900. The work became a best-seller, and lead to “The Martyr” (1900), “Justice to the Woman” (1901) and the 1902 “A Political Fool”, as well as various anti-alcohol pamphlets, and probably played some role in the 1920 institution of Prohibition. Once her children were all in school, Bernie became society editor of the “Arkansas Democrat”; from 1906 until 1909, she was publisher of “The Sketch Book”, an upscale literary and photography journal that gave readership to the work of native Arkansans. Bernie relocated to Chicago, where she worked on a newspaper staff, published a number of short stories including “The Devil and Tom Walker”, and wrote for the prohibitionist “The Home Defender”. Developing a fascination for Abraham Lincoln, Bernie did extensive research (including interviews with people who had known the 16th. president); she released “The Soul of Ann Rutledge” (1919) which became a major best-seller, and was translated into several languages. Bernie followed with the 1923 “The Soul of Abraham Lincoln”, and three other Lincoln books, then branched out into Robert E. Lee (1931’s “Light Horse Harry’s Boys”) and, also in 1931, “The Heart of George Washington”. In 1927, Bernie founded Little Rock’s Museum of Natural History, in part to counter Arkansas’ reuptation as a “hick” state; she was to guide it, and move it thru several sites, prior to her 1953 retirement. She became folklore editor of the Federal Writer’s Project in 1935, dovetailing the local legends of differing parts of the country with her interest in parapsychology; Bernie wrote for the British magazine “Modern Mystic”, belonged to psychical research societies on both sides of the Atlantic, and even attended, and documented, voodoo rituals. She retired to “Journey’s End”, her mountaintop home, in 1953, where she took-up painting and kept writing until the end; legend has it that she died with a manuscript in her hand. (bio by: Bob Hufford)  Family links:  Spouse:  William F. Babcock (1858 – 1898)  Children:  Frances Babcock Cutting (1891 – 1982)* *Calculated relationship

Born

  • April, 28, 1868
  • USA

Died

  • June, 06, 1962
  • USA

Cemetery

  • Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park
  • Arkansas
  • USA

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