Annie Fellows Johnson Scrapbook - Newspaper "clippings" 1921

Annie Fellows Johnston Scrapbook
Newspaper "Clippings" 1921


Mom Beck, Figure In
Series of Books, Dies

Louisville Courier-Journal, May 10, 1921

Rebeccah Porter, aged negro woman, died yesterday at the home of her son, 634 South Fifteenth Street. Thousands who never saw her will mourn her death. She was Mom Beck, beloved counselor and confidant of the "Little Colonel of Pewee Valley " enshrined in the hearts of boys and girls everywhere by Mrs. Annie Fellows Johnston, author of the Little Colonel books.

The negro woman was one of the best-loved characters in the series. Johnston said she received letters every week from children, charmed by the youthful heroine, and her friends inquiring about the reality of the characters. Always they ask about Mom Beck, she said. Mrs. Johnston said she had been able to assure them that Mom Beck was real and still alive.

Mom Beck was a former slave and was owned in pre-war times by the Conways of Virginia.. She spent most of her life in Pewee Valley. She was part Indian.

"I shall hate to get the next letter inquiring about her," Mrs. Johnston said. "It will hurt me to tell the children, who love her in the books as those who known her love her in real life, that she is dead."

[Webmaster's note: We now know that Mom Beck was buried at Louisville's Eastern Cemetery which adjoins Cave Hill. (Death certificate).  We have not yet been able to locate her grave.]


Character in Writings
of Mrs. Johnston Dies

Louisville Times, May 10, 1921

Mom Beck, counselor and confidant of the Little Colonel, the heroine, of Mrs. Annie Fellows Johnston's series of books, is no more. Rebeccah Porter, the aged negro woman on whom the character in the stories was based, died yesterday at the home of her son, 634 South Fifteenth Street.

Her death will be regretted by thousands who never saw her personally. In the letters constantly received by Mrs. Johnston from youthful readers inquiring whether the characters in her books were real, questions about Mom Beck always were included. She spent most of her. life in Pewee Valley the scene of the Little Colonel books, but in pre-war times was a slave owned by the Conways of Virginia.


New York Times, July 10, 1921

ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON, one of the most successful among contemporary writers for young people, gives the following from her experiences regarding reading for girls:

For over twenty years I have been receiving letters from the girls of America, and because of these intimate, self-revealing little confessions, I have tried to put into my books a certain point of view --- and that is a normal outlook on school-girl love affairs. It was because of these letters that I gave the Little Colonel her "silver yardstick," and wrote the allegory of the "Three Weavers." But I found that the later books of the series were being barred from the shelves of some libraries, such as Pittsburgh and Boston, be cause there was too much "heart interest " in them for young girls.

Several years ago, when the American Library Association had met in Louisville, I was asked to speak at an "authors' evening," and I took up the question with them, asking "just how far into the pages of youthful literature shall Prince Charming be allowed to step?"

I said. "You admit him unreservedly to the youngest children through the door of fairy tales. You let him ride, a knight in armor, in all the glamour of his plumes and trappings through the legends of King Arthur's Court. He is even brought into the story hour, thinly veiled in mythology, but plainly responsible for most of the adventures of the gods and goddesses. But when it comes to present-day juvenile fiction, some of you shut the door in his face. Others restrict him to the last chapter of a story, just as the curtain falls, and then only as the attendant of one of the older characters. He is allowed only a family interest in the young heroine, such as an uncle or a guardian might have. Now I contend that a girl's book of fiction should help her meet the problems that she is encountering right now in her school days, and my letters have shown me that the question of Prince Charming is one of the most vital she has. If she meets him only in fairy tales and legends and mythology and grown-up literature, she doesn't recognize him, when as an awkward boy he slips an apple into her desk or a note into her arithmetic. As a  rule she either scornshim as one falling below the ideal these tales give her, or she takes him far too seriously  and invests him with the halo borrowed from her dream heroes.

If there is ever a time when she needs some standard measurement it is in this early intense stage when she has absolutely no sense of humor as applied to herself, and only vague ideas of value and proportion. There are two things always to be considered in the psychology of girlhood. One is that long before she is supposed to be personally interested in such things she is weaving the web of her maiden fancies to make a mantle for someone whom she calls "prince," although he may be only the little boy with the apple. And for this weaving she seeks material as instinctively as the silk worm seeks the leaf on which it feeds.  She will find something, no matter how you circumvent her. If it is denied her in her own books she will get it surreptitiously elsewhere. Isn't it better, then, frankly --- the mulberry bough suitable to her years, than what she may come upon groping eagerly through current fiction? 


Louisville Post, July 11, 1921

From The New York Times; Jul 10, we quote Mrs. Annie Fellow Johnston's views on books for girls, so memorably stated a few yeas ago:

Several years ago, when the American Library Association had met in Louisville, I was asked to speak at an " authors' evening," and I took up the question with them, asking "just how far into the pages of youthful literature shall Prince Charming be allowed to step?"

I said. "You admit him unreservedly to the youngest children through the door of fairy tales. You let him ride, a knight in armor, in all the glamour of his plumes and trappings through the legends of King Arthur's Court. He is even brought into the story hour, thinly veiled in mythology, but plainly responsible for most of the adventures of the gods and goddesses. But when it comes to present-day juvenile fiction, some of you shut the door in his face. Others restrict him to the last chapter of a story, just as the curtain falls, and then only as the attendant of one of the older characters. He is allowed only a family interest in the young heroine, such as an uncle or a guardian might have. Now I contend that a girl's book of fiction should help her meet the problems that she is encountering right now in her school days, and my letters have shown me that the question of Prince Charming is one of the most vital she has. If she meets him only in fairy tales and legends and mythology and grown-up literature, she doesn't recognize him, when as an awkward boy he slips an apple into her desk or a note into her arithmetic. As a  rule she either scornshim as one falling below the ideal these tales give her, or she takes him far too seriously  and invests him with the halo borrowed from her dream heroes.

If there is ever a time when she needs some standard measurement it is in this early intense stage when she has absolutely no sense of humor as applied to herself, and only vague ideas of value and proportion. There are two things al ways to be considered in the psychology of girlhood. One is that long before she is supposed to be personally interested in such things she is weaving the web of her maiden fancies to make a mantle for some one whom she calls "prince," although he may be only the little boy with the apple. And for this weaving she seeks material as instinctively as the silk worm seeks the leaf on which it feeds.  She will find something, no matter how you circumvent her. If it is denied her in her own books she will get it surreptitiously elsewhere. Isn't it better, then, frankly --- the mulberry bough suitable to her years, than what she may come upon groping eagerly through current fiction? 


Louisville Post, July 20, 1921

Faithful readers of "The Little Colonel" series will regret to hear that the original of Mom Beck, counselor of the "Little Colonel," is dead. The many letters which Mrs. Annie Fellows Johnston was constantly receiving from her young readers always asked if Mom Beck were "real." She was --- her "real name" being Rebeccah Porter. So important  a figure in literature has she become, Mrs. Johnston's publishers, L. C. Page & Co., Boston, are sending out news of her lamented demise and a few biographical notes. A pre-war slave, owned by the Conways of Virginia, she has long been a resident Pewee Valley, scene of the "Little Colonel" series.

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