Kathryn Anderson was born in San Francisco in 1908. Her grandmother emigrated to California from Norway in the late 19th century; both of Anderson's parents were native-born Americans. Kathryn married Robert McLean, a carpenter, with whom she had two sons.
Forbes was a radio scriptwriter before she began writing short stories. Mama's Bank Account, her best-known work, was published in 1943 and revolved around the daily struggles and aspirations of a Norwegian family living in San Francisco in the 1910s.
Forbes' book served as the inspiration for John Van Druten's 1944 play I Remember Mama. In 1948, a film version of the play was released by RKO Pictures and starred Irene Dunne as Mama and Barbara Bel Geddes as her daughter, an aspiring writer.
Forbes' novel was twice turned into a stage musical. The first, adapted by Neal Du Brock and John Clifton, opened in Buffalo, New York, in 1972 with Celeste Holm in the role of Mama. In 1979, Richard Rodgers wrote the music for the second musical version. This time out, Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann played the role of Mama.
In 1947, Forbes published Transfer Point, regarding the daughter of divorced parents. Unlike Mama's Bank Account, which drew on the experiences of her Norwegian-born grandmother, this novel was closer to Forbes' actual childhood.
The Kathryn Forbes McLean Memorial Fund was created shortly after her death to provide funds for improvements to the library which she frequented.
- Kathryn Forbes (Goodreads)
- Jean Baumgartner, "Meet the Author: Kathryn Forbes," San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 1943, p 13. 8
- "Remembering I Remember Mama", New York Magazine; May 14, 1979
- I Remember Mama (1948) (Turner Sports and Entertainment Digital Network)
- Associated Press (May 17, 1966). "Kathryn Forbes, Writer, Dies". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 2015-01-07.