Barbara Newhall Follett

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Barbara Newhall Follett
Barbara Newhall Follet.jpg
Born(1914-03-04)March 4, 1914
DisappearedDecember 7, 1939 (aged 25)
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Other namesBarbara Rogers
Notable work
The House Without Windows (1927)
The Voyage of the Norman D. (1928)
Nickerson Rogers (m. 1933–1939)
Parent(s)Wilson Follett
Helen Follett

Barbara Newhall Follett[1] (March 4, 1914[2] – disappeared December 7, 1939) was an American child prodigy novelist.[3] Her first novel, The House Without Windows, was published in January 1927, when she was twelve years old. Her next novel, The Voyage of the Norman D., received critical acclaim when she was fourteen.[3]

In December 1939, aged 25, she reportedly became depressed with her marriage and walked out of her apartment, never to be seen again.[4]


Follett was the daughter of critic and editor Wilson Follett and the children's writer Helen Thomas Follett. She was schooled at home and was writing poetry by age four.[4] In 1923, when Barbara was only eight years old, she began writing The House Without Windows as a birthday present for her mother on the small portable typewriter she had been using since she was four years old. Though later, that year, her manuscript burned in a house fire, she rewrote the entire story and her father, Wilson Follett, an editor at Knopf supervised its publication in 1927. With the help and guidance of her father, Follett's first novel, The House Without Windows, was accepted and published in 1927 by the Knopf publishing house to critical acclaim by The New York Times, the Saturday Review, and H. L. Mencken.[3][4] Her next novel, The Voyage of the Norman D., was based on her experience on a coastal schooner in Nova Scotia. It was published a year later in 1928. Again it received critical acclaim in many literary publications.

However, in the same year, her father abandoned her mother for another woman. The event was a devastating blow to Follett, who was deeply attached to her father.[3] Despite being only 14, she had reached the apex of her life and career.[3][4]

My dreams are going through their death flurries. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money.[5]

Subsequently, her family fell upon hard times. By the age of 16, as the Great Depression was deepening, Follett was working as a secretary in New York.[3]

Follett wrote several more manuscripts, including the novel-length Lost Island and Travels Without a Donkey, a travelogue (the title plays on Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey).


In late 1933, Follett married Nickerson Rogers. The couple traveled throughout Europe and the United States before eventually settling in Brookline, Massachusetts. The marriage was initially happy, but Follett soon came to believe that Rogers was being unfaithful to her and became depressed.[3] According to her husband, on December 7, 1939, Follett left their apartment after a quarrel with $30 in her pocket ($528 in 2017). She was never seen again.[4]

Rogers did not report Follett's disappearance to police for two weeks, claiming that he was waiting for her to return. Four months after notifying police, he requested a missing persons bulletin be issued. As the bulletin was issued under Follett's married name of "Rogers", it went largely unnoticed by the media, who did not learn of her disappearance until 1966.

In 1952, thirteen years after Follett disappeared, her mother Helen began insisting that Brookline police investigate the matter more thoroughly. Helen Follett had become suspicious of Nickerson Rogers after she discovered that he had made little effort to find his wife. In a letter to Rogers, Helen Follett wrote: "All of this silence on your part looks as if you had something to hide concerning Barbara’s disappearance ... You cannot believe that I shall sit idle during my last few years and not make whatever effort I can to find out whether Bar is alive or dead, whether, perhaps, she is in some institution suffering from amnesia or nervous breakdown."[3]

Follett's body was never found, and no evidence indicating or excluding foul play was ever produced. The date and circumstances of her death have never been established.[3]


  • Follett, Barbara Newhall. (1927). The House Without Windows & Eepersip's Life There. New York, London: Knopf. OCLC 870940 (Reprinted 1968, New York: Avon Camelot.)
  • Follett, Barbara Newhall. (1928). The Voyage of the Norman D.. New York, London: Knopf. OCLC 3561118
  • Follett, Barbara Newhall. (1934). Lost Island: A Romance.Lost Island
  • Follett, Barbara Newhall. (1934).Travels Without a Donkey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Barbara Newhall Follett Papers, 1919–1966". Columbia University Archive Collection. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
  2. ^ Follett, Barbara N., The House Without Windows, Knopf, 1927, Historical Note by Wilson Follett, p. 156
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Paul Collins (December 2010). "Vanishing Act". Lapham's Quarterly. Archived from the original on August 2, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Books: Tragedy in a Hothouse". Time Magazine. June 3, 1966. Archived from the original on 1 February 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  5. ^ NPR Staff (December 18, 2010). "Barbara Newhall Follett, Disappearing Child Genius". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • McCurdy, Harold Grier (1966). Barbara: The Unconscious Autobiography of a Child Genius. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina. ISBN 978-0-8078-0989-1.
  • Wood, Naomi (1995). "Who Writes and Who Is Written?: Barbara Newhall Follett and Typing the Natural Child". Children's Literature. Project Muse. 23 (1): 45–46. doi:10.1353/chl.0.0184.
  • Cooke, Stefan (2015). Barbara Newhall Follett: A Life in Letters. Somerville, MA: Farksolia. p. 638. ISBN 978-0-9962431-1-7.
  • Hulbert, Ann (2018). Off the Charts. New York: Knopf. p. 400. ISBN 978-1-1019472-9-6
  • Smith, Laura (2018). The Art of Vanishing. New York: Viking. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-3995635-8-4
  • Schmeidler, Lynn (2018). History of Gone. El Paso, TX: Veliz Books. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-9969134-7-8

External links[edit]