Five College Archives and Manuscript
                        Collections
Home >> Sophia Smith Collection >> Fanny Fern and Ethel Parton Papers, 1805-1982
Smith College seal
Fanny Fern and Ethel Parton Papers, 1805-1982
15 boxes (7 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 117

Abstract:
Author, journalist, columnist, children's author, and humorist. Sara Payson Willis wrote for several small Boston magazines under the name Fanny Fern; numerous newspapers soon published her pieces. She had a regular weekly column in the New York Ledger and was one of the first woman columnists. Ethel Parton, granddaughter of Sara Willis and James Parton, worked as a writer and literary assistant, and at age 70 began writing children's books. Materials include extensive writings, correspondence, sketches, albums, and photographs.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The copyright owner of unpublished works by Fanny Fern and Ethel Parton is unknown. Elaine Gellis Bradshaw has retained rights to "Popular Pundit: Fanny Fern and the Emergence of the American Newspaper Columnist;" copyright to "Who on Earth Was Fanny Fern?" has been retained by Ruth Sexton Sargent; and the Parton family have retained literary rights to "Fanny Fern: An Informal Biography" by Ethel Parton. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note
Pen and ink drawing of Fanny Fern (Sara Willis Parton)by her daughter, Ellen Eldredge Parton, n.d.

Pen and ink drawing of Fanny Fern (Sara Willis Parton)
by her daughter, Ellen Eldredge Parton, n.d.

Sara Payson Willis Parton, author and newspaper columnist better known as Fanny Fern, was born in Portland, Maine on July 9, 1811 to Nathaniel Willis and Hannah Parker. The fifth of nine children, Sara was educated in Boston and at Catharine Beecher's seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. While still in school she occasionally contributed to her father's periodical for children, Youth's Companion. Willis married Charles Eldredge in 1837. The couple had three daughters, Mary, Grace, and Ellen. After the death of Eldredge in 1846, Willis married Boston merchant Samuel P. Farrington, whom she divorced three years later. After several dismal employment ventures, in 1851 she began writing under the name Fanny Fern for several small Boston magazines. Numerous newspapers soon picked up her humorous pieces. A collection of her writings was published in 1853 as Fern Leaves from Fanny's Port-Folio, an immediate bestseller. She married historian and biographer James Parton in 1856. Fanny Fern's other publications include two novels, Ruth Hall (1855) and Rose Clark (1856); and six collections of her columns including Fresh Leaves (1857), Folly as It Flies (1859), Ginger-Snaps (1870), and Caper-Sauce (1872). Her astounding success led to a regular weekly column in the New York Ledger, making her America's first women columnist. Fern's works incorporated wit and impudence, dealing with such topics as domestic problems, equality between the sexes, the double standard of morality, the need for parents to respect willful children, and tomboys. She deplored excessive housework and too large families, encouraged women to seek wider fields of endeavor, poked fun at the august male, and criticized conventional religion. A suffrage supporter after 1858, Fern was a co-founder of New York City's pioneer woman's club, Sorosis, in 1868. Fanny Fern died of cancer in New York on October 10,1872.

Ethel Parton was born in New York on December 1,1862 to Mortimer Thomson (whose pen name was Q. K. Philander Doesticks) and Grace Eldredge, daughter of Sara Payson Willis Parton (Fanny Fern). Fanny Fern (her grandmother) and James Parton adopted her after the death of her mother. After Fanny Fern's death in 1872, James Parton married Ethel's aunt, Ellen Willis Eldredge, and the couple cared for Ethel along with their own children. Ethel was educated at home by James Parton, at the school of Jane Andrews, and at the Putnam Free School in Newburyport, Massachusetts. After high school Ethel worked for James Parton as "secretary, literary assistant, and occasional collaborator." She changed her surname to Parton on attaining her majority. After James Parton's death, Ethel was a correspondent for Youth's Companion (founded by her great-grandfather, Nathaniel Willis) and contributed verses and stories to St. Nicholas. At age 70, she began writing children's books. These included 6 titles, popularly known as "The Newburyport Chronicles" which were set in early 19th-century Newburyport: Melissa Ann (1932), Tabitha Mary (1933), Penelope Ellen (1936), Vinnie Applegay and Minnie Applegay (1937), Runaway Prentice (1939), The Lost Locket (1940), and The House Between (1943). Ethel Parton died in 1944.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Fanny Fern and Ethel Parton Papers contain 7 linear feet and consist primarily of biographical data, including photographs, and material pertaining to the two women's writings. The collection is actually two separate but related sets of papers and have been arranged as such, beginning with the Fanny Fern Papers (SERIES I -IV), and continuing with the Ethel Parton Papers (SERIES V - IX). Types of material include correspondence, photographs and daguerreotypes, typescripts, printed matter, books, artwork, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers date from 1850 to 1944, although many of Ethel Parton's typescripts are undated and it is unclear how many of them ever reached publication. Items that may be of particular interest to researchers include Fanny Fern's correspondence; photographs and drawings of Fanny Fern and members of her extended family; early editions of books by Fanny Fern; typescripts of all of Fanny Fern's New York Ledger articles (1856-72), compiled by Florence Bannard Adams, as well as a run of original issues of the New York Ledger (1871-72) containing pieces by Fanny Fern; "Popular Pundit: Fanny Fern and the Emergence of the American Newspaper Columnist," a paper by Smith College senior Elaine Gelles Breslaw '56; and typescripts of two unpublished biographies of Fanny Fern: "Fanny Fern: An Informal Biography" by Ethel Parton and "Who on Earth Was Fanny Fern?" by Ruth Sexton Sargent.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The copyright owner of unpublished works by Fanny Fern and Ethel Parton is unknown. Elaine Gellis Bradshaw has retained rights to "Popular Pundit: Fanny Fern and the Emergence of the American Newspaper Columnist;" copyright to "Who on Earth Was Fanny Fern?" has been retained by Ruth Sexton Sargent; and the Parton family have retained literary rights to "Fanny Fern: An Informal Biography" by Ethel Parton. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Fanny Fern and Ethel Parton Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

James Parton II donated the Fanny Fern Papers in 1951. He added to the collection on numerous occasions, most recently in 1992, and arranged for the Newburyport (MA) Public Library to donate the Ethel Parton Papers in 1978. Ruth Sexton Sargent gave the manuscript of her unpublished biography, "Who on Earth Was Fanny Fern?," to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1978.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger, 2000.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
(1805-1982)
.5 linear feet

Scope and content:

This series contains correspondence; legal documents, including those relating to Fern's divorce from Samuel Farrington and to the situation with the family of her first husband, Charles Eldredge; a genealogy and a family history; and articles, clippings and typescripts. There correspondence, legal documents, and articles and clippings pertain to Fanny Fern and her family; the typescripts are of the unpublished biography of Fanny Fern by Ruth Sexton Sargent and the senior thesis by Elaine Gelles Breslaw.

Related material:
(1829-1870)
.25 linear feet

The series includes correspondence with Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Major Benjamin F. Butler, as well as with members of Fern's family.

(n.d.)
.25 linear feet

This series consists of sketches; a memo book and a school album; a ceramic tile; and gloves lace, and fabric samples from Fern's wedding gown.

(n.d.)
.25 linear feet

This series contains photographs, daguerreotypes, and a tintype of Fanny Fern and her family.

(1850-1884)
1.25 linear feet

The series consists of contracts, financial statements, typescripts, newspapers, and books by Fanny Fern and by others. The books are early editions and are very fragile.

(1884-1980)
.5 linear feet

The series has in it correspondence pertaining to Ethel Parton material in the Newburyport (MA) Public Library, legal documents, photographs, clippings, memorabilia, and printed matter, as well as information about artist Nike Parton.

(1885-1945)
.25 linear feet

This series contains correspondence with family, friends and acquaintances and is limited in scope.

(1896-1943)
2.75 linear feet

This series consists of royalty statements, book reviews, contracts, correspondence, draft manuscripts and typescripts, notes, and fragments of writings. It includes a draft manuscript and a typescript of Parton's unpublished biography of Fanny Fern, "Fanny Fern: An Informal Biography."

(1891-1943)
.25 linear feet

The series contains sketches by Parton, and drafts of hand made Christmas cards she created based on Dutch tile designs.

Contents List
SERIES I. FANNY FERN BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL



Nat'l Union Catalogue of Mss. Colls., data sheet, Parton family history
1968, n.d.

Box 1: folder 1
Willis family genealogy
n.d.

Box 1: folder 2
Last Will and Testament, Mary Eldredge
1857

Box 1: folder 3
Last Will and Testament and Letters Testamentary, Sara Payson Parton
1873, n.d.

Box 1: folder 4
Note:
Legal documents pertaining to Hezekiah Eldredge
1805-49, n.d.

Box 1: folder 5
Note:
Correspondence and legal documents, Farrington family
1851-99, n.d.

Box 1: folder 6
Note:
Correspondence to Florence Snow from Hope Willis Rathbun re: Fanny Fern and family matters
1966-67

Box 1: folder 7
Articles about Fanny Fern, including related correspondence
1896-1971, n.d.

Box 1: folder 8
Clippings about Fanny Fern and other family members
1874-1982, n.d.

Box 1: folder 9
Typescript, "Popular Pundit: Fanny Fern and the Emergence of the American Newspaper Columnist," by Elaine Gellis Bradshaw
1956

Box 1: folder 10
Typescripts, "Who On Earth Was Fanny Fern?," by Ruth Sargent
circa 1978

Box 1: folder 11-15
SERIES II. FANNY FERN CORRESPONDENCE



Incoming



Beecher, Catharine
1829, n.d.

Box 2: folder 1
Dana, Mary C.
n.d.

Box 2: folder 2
Dodge, Mary A.
1869

Box 2: folder 3
Eldredge, Charles to and from Fanny Fern
n.d.

Box 2: folder 5
Flournoy, John James to Fanny Fern and Nathaniel P. Willis
1830

Box 2: folder 6
Note:
Greenwood, Grace
1870

Box 2: folder 7
Stowe, Harriet Beecher
1868, n.d.

Box 2: folder 8
Torrey, E. Sutton to Fanny Fern
1858

Box 2: folder 9
Outgoing



Butler, Major Benjamin F.
n.d.

Box 2: folder 10
Eldredge, Ellen
1871, n.d.

Box 2: folder 11
"Florence Fern,"
n.d.

Box 2: folder 12
Parton, Ethel
n.d.

Box 2: folder 13
Van Cleve, Mrs.
n.d.

Box 2: folder 14
Willis, Richard S.
1844

Box 2: folder 15
Other



Greene, Mrs. E. Ferguson to Ellen E. Parton
1899

Box 2: folder 16
Willis, Katherine to Ellen Parton
1931, n.d.

Box 2: folder 17
Willis, Mary to Nathaniel P. Willis
1823

Box 2: folder 18
Willis, Nathaniel P., letter and verse
n.d.

Box 2: folder 19
SERIES III. FANNY FERN MEMORABILIA



Memo books
n.d.

Box 2: folder 20
Clipping and legal document, Town and Country Club of Newport, RI
n.d.

Box 2: folder 21
Sketches of Fanny Fern by Ellen Eldredge Parton
n.d.

Box 2: folder 22
Tile with handwriting
n.d.

Box 2: folder 23
School album
n.d.

Box 2: folder 24
Fabric sample from wedding dress
circa 1837

Box 2: folder 25
Gloves and lace from wedding dress
circa 1837

Box 2: folder 26
SERIES IV. FANNY FERN PHOTOGRAPHS



Photocopies of photographs


Box 2: folder 27
Photographs of Fanny Fern and extended family
n.d.

Box 2: folder 28
Daguerreotypes



Grace Eldredge
n.d.

Box 3: folder 1
Hannah Parker Willis
n.d.

Box 3: folder 2
Grace Eldredge Thomson and Mark Thomson
n.d.

Box 3: folder 3
Grace Eldredge Thomson
n.d.

Box 3: folder 4
Ellen and Grace Eldredge
n.d.

Box 3: folder 5
Ellen and Grace Eldredge as little girls
n.d.

Box 3: folder 6
Charles Eldredge, seated 1/2 face, full length
n.d.

Box 3: folder 7
Charles Eldredge, profile
n.d.

Box 3: folder 8
Charles Eldredge, seated facing left, 1/2 face, full length
n.d.

Box 3: folder 9
Mark Thomson (?)
n.d.

Box 3: folder 10
Edward Willis
n.d.

Box 3: folder 11
Ellen Eldredge with her grandfather
n.d.

Box 3: folder 12
Unidentified woman
n.d.

Box 3: folder 13
Tintype: two Willis children (possibly Harry and Josephine Jenkins,children of Mary Willis Jenkins)
n.d.

Box 3: folder 14
SERIES V. FANNY FERN WRITINGS



Contracts, publishers checklists, statements, and advertisements
1850-73, n.d.

Box 4: folder 1
Articles by Fanny Fern for The New York Ledger: typescripts
1855-72

Box 4: folder 2-19
List of articles by Fanny Fern for the Olive Branch, the Boston True Flag, and the New York Ledger, located in bound volumes at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA
1851-62

Box 4: folder 20
The New York Ledger

(Oversize box)

Feb 1871 - Feb 1872

Box 5
Books by Fanny Fern



Caper Sauce
1872

Box 6
Fanny Fern: A Memorial Volume, ed. James Parton
1873

Box 6
Fern Leaves From Fanny's Portfolio (6 copies)
1853-54

Box 6
Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Time
1855

Box 6
Folly as it Flies
1859

Box 7
Fresh Leaves
1857

Box 7
Ginger-Snaps
1870

Box 7
Little Ferns
1854

Box 7
Rose Clark
1856

Box 7
Ruth Hall (2 copies)
1855

Box 8
Play Day Book: New Stories for Little Folk
1857

Box 8
Shadows and Sunbeams (2 copies)
1881 (?), 1884

Box 8
Books by others



Life and Beauties of Fanny Fern by an anonymous author
1855

Box 8
Rural Matters by Nathaniel Parker Willis
1849

Box 8
The Watchman by J.A.M.
1855

Box 8
SERIES VI. ETHEL PARTON BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL



Correspondence re: the Ethel Parton Papers in the Newburyport Public Library, Newburyport, MA
1974-80

Box 9: folder 1
Graduation memorabilia, typescripts, and autobiographical sketches
1880-1934, n.d.

Box 9: folder 2
Note:
Clippings: Dedication of Ethel Parton Reading Room at the Newburyport Public Library
1905

Box 9: folder 3
80th birthday party at the Newburyport Public Library: photograph and card
1942

Box 9: folder 4
Clippings and correspondence re: name change
5 Feb 1884, n.d.

Box 9: folder 5
Marriage certificate, Mortimer Thomson and Grace Eldgedge
1861

Box 9
Note:
Silhouette of Ethel Parton by Frieda Castelhun
1931

Box 9: folder 6
Memorabilia
1865-68, n.d.

Box 9: folder 7
Draft manuscript for plaque inscription, Upper Green, Old Newbury, MA
1895

Box 9: folder 8
Photographs



Ethel Parton and brother, Mark Parton(glass plate negative)
n.d.

Box 9: folder 9
Ethel Parton
n.d.

Box 9: folder 10
Parton family
1862-79, n.d.

Box 9: folder 11
Thomson family
1873-77, n.d.

Box 9: folder 12
Published article, "Great Auction Sale of Slaves" by Mortimer Thomsonand his obituary, 1875
1859,

Box 9: folder 13
Note:
Ellen Willis Eldredge Parton: correspondence and memorabilia
n.d.

Box 9: folder 14
Nike Parton: resume, clippings, and printed matter
1956-77, n.d.

Box 9: folder 15
SERIES VII. ETHEL PARTON CORRESPONDENCE



Family



Parton, Ellen W. E.
1887, 1897

Box 10: folder 1
Parton, Hugo
1887-1931

Box 10: folder 2
Parton, James
n.d.

Box 10: folder 3
Parton, Mabel
1887

Box 10: folder 4
Friends and acquaintances



Incoming



Cushing, Fanny
1885

Box 10: folder 5
Eckert, Robert P.
1934

Box 10: folder 6
Flower, Milton
1939

Box 10: folder 7
Hills, Laura
1936, n.d.

Box 10: folder 8
Lawson, Marie A.
1932, n.d.

Box 10: folder 9
Mulliken, Sarah E.
1930, n.d.

Box 10: folder 10
Pearson, Edmund
1912-80

Box 10: folder 11
Pederson, Rachel Field
1938

Box 10: folder 12
Ruchione, Alice
1945

Box 10: folder 13
Van Doren, Carl
1939

Box 10: folder 14
Withington, Anne
1914

Box 10: folder 15
Zlotnik, Mae W., to and from Ethel Parton
1939

Box 10: folder 16
Outgoing



Bailey, Alice W.
1899

Box 10: folder 17
Maynard, Harriet
1937

Box 10: folder 18
Stevens, E.N.
1928

Box 10: folder 19
SERIES VIII. ETHEL PARTON WRITINGS



Royalty statements
1939-43

Box 10: folder 20
Reviews of books by Ethel Parton
1931-37

Box 10: folder 21
Book Club listings
1936-43

Box 10: folder 22
Contracts
1931-43

Box 10: folder 23
Correspondence



Publishers
1930-43, n.d.

Box 10: folder 24
Wilford, Jessie Douglas
1931-43, n.d.

Box 10: folder 25
Published prose






The House Between
(1943)


Draft manuscript
n.d.

Box 11: folder 1-10
Typescript
n.d.

Box 11: folder 11-15
Melissa Ann (1931): typescript of preface, n.d.

Box 12: folder 1
Penelope Ellen and Her Friends (1936): notes
n.d.

Box 12: folder 2
The Year Without a Summer (1945): draft manuscript
n.d.

Box 12: folder 3-10
Articles and stories



Various stories in St. Nicholas
1896-1910

Box 12: folder 11
"The Author of Penelope Ellen," Young Wings
1936

Box 12: folder 12
"The Launch of the 'Mariana'," Youth's Companion
1896

Box 12: folder 13
Note:
Other stories
1899-1940, n.d.

Box 12: folder 14
Unpublished prose (?)



"Art Enlivens the Way": draft manuscript
n.d.

Box 13: folder 1
"A Bit of Recaptured History": draft manuscript
n.d.

Box 13: folder 2
"At the Sign of the Proud Peacock": typescript(incomplete)
n.d.

Box 13: folder 3
"Charades": typescript and notes
n.d.

Box 13: folder 4-6
"Dumb Immortals": typescript
n.d.

Box 13: folder 7
"Fanny Fern: An Informal Biography"



Draft manuscript
circa 1928

Box 13: folder 8
Typescript (copy 1)
n.d.

Box 13: folder 9
Typescript (copy 2)
n.d.

Box 13: folder 10-12
Typescript (copy 3)
n.d.

Box 14: folder 1-2
Correspondence and notes
1940, n.d.

Box 14: folder 3
"Flower, Fruit and Fancy": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 4
"Jan Vinges' Pea Patch": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 5
"Nothing to Wear": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 6
"Pigs and Peacocks,"
n.d.

Box 14: folder 7
"The Pocket Princess": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 8
"Peter Duponceau": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 9
"Peter's Luck": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 10
"Three Teachers": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 11
"When the Great Were Little": typescript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 12
Unidentified fragments
n.d.

Box 14: folder 13
Published and unpublished verse



"The Ballad of the Borrowing Lady": draft manuscript
n.d.

Box 14: folder 13
"Children and Childish Fancies": draft manuscript and typescripts
n.d.

Box 14: folder 14
"Colonial period": notes and typescripts
n.d.

Box 14: folder 15
"Gift Verses": draft manuscripts
1939-40

Box 14: folder 16
"Revolutionary period": draft manuscripts and typescripts
n.d.

Box 15: folder 1-2
"The White Cub": draft manuscript
n.d.

Box 15: folder 3
Miscellaneous verse
n.d.

Box 15: folder 4-10
Unidentified fragments
n.d.

Box 15: folder 11-22
SERIES IX. ARTWORK



Sketches
1891-93, n.d.

Box 15: folder 23
Drawings and verse for "Delft tile Christmas cards,"
1932-43

Box 15: folder 24
Books by Ethel Parton, added to the collection in 2005


Box 16-17
The House Between: A Story of the 1850s, (2 copies)
1943

Box 16-17
Melissa Ann: A Little Girl of the Eighteen Twenties,
1931

Box 16-17
The Mule of the Parthenon and Other New Stories of Ancient Greece,
1932

Box 16-17
Penelope Ellen and Her Friends: Three Little Girls of 1840,
1936

Box 16-17
Runaway Apprentice: The Story of Jeffrey, Susan, Tris, and Tibby in the Year 1800, (2 copies)
1939

Box 16-17
Tabitha Mary: A Little Girl of 1810, (3 copies)
1933

Box 16-17
The Year Without a Summer: A Story of 1816,
1945

Box 16-17
OVERSIZE MATERIAL



Letters Testamentary, Sara Payson Parton (Fanny Fern)
1873

Flat file
1878, n.d.

Flat file
Contract between Sara Eldredge (Fanny Fern) and Derby Miller
1853

Flat file
Marriage annullment between Sara Farrington (Fanny Fern) and Samuel Farrington
1853

Flat file
Youth's Companion
10 September 1896

Flat file
Letters from John Flournoy to Sara P. Willis (Fanny Fern) and Nathaniel Willis, her father
1830

Flat file
Marriage certificate, Mortimer Thomson and Grace Eldgedge
1861

Flat file
"Notice" by Samuel Farrington in The Bee
25 Feb 1851

Flat file
Portland Transcript
12 December 1852

Flat file
Petition of James Parton and Ellen Eldredge Parton to the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
14 Feb 1876

Flat file

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • American wit and humor--Women authors--19th century--Sources
  • Authors, American--19th century--Sources
  • Beecher, Catharine Esther, 1800-1878
  • Children's literature--Authorship--19th century--Sources
  • Doesticks, Q.K. Philander, 1831-1875
  • Feminists--United States--History--19th century--Sources
  • Fern, Fanny, 1911-1872
  • Hartford Female Seminary (Hartford, Conn.)--History
  • New-York ledger--History
  • Newspapers--New York (State)--New York--History--Sources
  • Parton family
  • Parton, Ethel, 1862-1944
  • Parton, James, 1822-1891
  • Publishers and publishing--United States--History--Sources
  • Satire, American--19th century--Sources
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
  • Thomson, Mortimer, 1831-1875
  • Willis family
  • Willis, Nathaniel Parker, 1806-1867
  • Women authors, American--19th century--Sources
  • Women journalists--United States--History-19th century-Sources


Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
Home | Help | About | Search