Our latest exhibit at the Maine Women Writers Collection is a family tree of sorts, showing the family ties among ten of the writers in the collection.
The exhibit features the mother-daughter pairs of Josephine Peary & Marie Stafford, Elizabeth Coatsworth & Kate Barnes, and A. Carman Clark & Kate Flora; and two sets of sisters, Mary Ellen Chase & Virginia Chase and Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith.
I had the opportunity to process Nora Archibald Smith’s (1859-1934) papers last semester and through that began to learn about who she was as a person, writer and school administrator. Many of you may know her sister’s most famous work: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but did you know that together they opened the California Kindergarten Training School?
Both girls were born in Philadelphia to Robert Noah Smith and Helen Elizabeth (Dyer) Smith. Their father died shortly after Nora’s birth and their mother then moved the family to Portland, Maine. She soon remarried and the family moved into Nora and Kate’s stepfather’s (Dr. Albion Bradbury) house in Hollis, Maine. It was in the farmhouse called “Quillcote” that both Nora and Kate grew up, and to which they would later retire. In 1873, while Kate attended finishing school in Andover, Massachusetts, Dr. Bradbury moved the family to California.
Nora Archibald Smith graduated from Santa Barbara College, which she referred to as “an impermanent institution which never before had conferred similar honors (and never did again)” (Smith, 1925). She then took a job in Mexico where she taught for a year. After that she went on to Tucson, Arizona to teach for two years while her sister opened the first free kindergarten west of the Rocky Mountains on Silver Street in San Francisco, California. In 1880 they founded the California Kindergarten Training School together. Nora Archibald Smith went on to become the superintendent of the free kindergarten on Silver Street and later to take over the running of the California Kindergarten Training School in 1889.
Ms. Smith was president of the California Froebel Society, an executive member of the committee of the International Kindergarten Association, and the vice-president (1891-1892) of the kindergarten department of the National Education Association. Nora Archibald Smith collaborated with her sister to write or edit fifteen books. Ms. Smith, a writer in her own right, also published many serial stories and academic journal articles.
The Nora Archibald Smith papers include scrapbooks of her writings in publications such as Kindergarten Review, The Outlook, Primary School Popular Educator and New England Magazine. The collection contains correspondence to Kate Douglas Wiggin collected by Smith while writing her biography of Wiggin; correspondence with her publisher; Houghton, Mifflin and Company; and Smith’s private correspondence. One of my favorite pairs of letters is one written in Spanish offering Smith a job and a reply letter from Smith, accepting the job and promising to try to learn some Spanish before she gets there.
Her papers also include many newspaper clippings that inspired Smith’s stories. Photographic portraits of Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith, as well as photographs of their friends and places in their lives, are also a part of this collection.