Kathryn Forbes

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Kathryn McLean (née Anderson) (March 20, 1908 – May 15, 1966), best known by her pen name Kathryn Forbes, was an American writer and memoirist.[1]


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.[2][3]


Forbes was a radio scriptwriter[4][5] before she began writing short stories.[6] Mama's Bank Account,[7][8][9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

Mama, a television series based on the film, was broadcast on CBS from July 1, 1949, to March 17, 1957, and starred Peggy Wood as Mama.[12]

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, for which Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann played the role of Mama.[13]

In 1947, Forbes published Transfer Point,[14] regarding the daughter of divorced parents. Unlike Mama's Bank Account, which drew on the experiences of her Norwegian-born maternal grandmother, Annie Lund (1849-1928),[2] this novel was closer to Forbes' actual childhood.

Forbes moved to an apartment[15] in San Francisco to be near her physician for her chronic emphysema.[16] She died on May 15, 1966.[16]

The Kathryn Forbes McLean Memorial Fund was created shortly after her death to provide funds for improvements to the library which she frequented.[17]


  1. ^ Kathryn Forbes (Goodreads)
  2. ^ a b "Looking for Mama: The search for Kathryn Forbes' childhood home". 11 October 2015.
  3. ^ Jean Baumgartner, "Meet the Author: Kathryn Forbes," San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 1943, p 13. 8
  4. ^ "A Time-Enriched "I Remember Mama"". The New Yorker. 10 June 2016.
  5. ^ Smith, Judith E. (September 2004). Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960. ISBN 9780231509268.
  6. ^ Smith, Judith E. (September 2004). Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960. ISBN 9780231509268.
  7. ^ Forbes, Kathryn (March 1968). Mama's Bank Account. ISBN 0156563770.
  8. ^ "LIFE". 1948-04-12.
  9. ^ "Mama's Bank Account".
  10. ^ Starr, Kevin (2002-11-28). The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s. ISBN 9780199923939.
  11. ^ "Movie Reviews". The New York Times. 22 June 2021.
  12. ^ "Remembering I Remember Mama", New York Magazine; May 14, 1979
  13. ^ I Remember Mama (1948) (Turner Sports and Entertainment Digital Network)
  14. ^ "Transfer Point".
  15. ^ "San Mateo Times Newspaper Archives, May 16, 1966, p. 26". 16 May 1966.
  16. ^ a b "Kathryn Forbes, Writer, Dies". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. May 17, 1966. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  17. ^ "The Times from San Mateo, California on October 26, 1966 · Page 18".

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