By Michael Williams
In 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, a young widow, Eliza Boond Hodgson, brought her five children, including the 13-year-old Frances, to America, settling first in Jefferson County and moving a few years later to Knoxville. The family struggled financially and young Frances began writing as a way to contribute to the family income. Eliza died in 1870, leaving Frances, who was 18 at the time to help provide for her siblings. Eliza was buried in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville. It was in Knoxville that Frances sold her first story, married her first husband, Swan Burnett, a medical doctor, and gave birth to her first child. While the name Frances Hodgson Burnett may not ring as familiar as come contemporary writers, her work won her a place in literary history and the hearts of many readers. The Knoxville native authored several delightful books including “the Secret Garden,” “A Little Princess” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy” among others. In a life filled with excitement and travel, Burnett traveled the world, raised a family and eventually finished her life in New York where she is buried. But there is little doubt her early years in East Tennessee strongly influenced her writings.
The East Tennessee Historical Society will celebrate the life of this amazing and gifted writer in a brown bag lecture “Celebrating Frances Hodgson Burnett” by Penny Deupree, Burnett’s Great-Granddaughter, with remarks by Jack Neely.
The lecture will be held at the East Tennessee History Center at 601 South Gay Street in Knoxville, Thursday, November 19, at noon. The admission is free and open to the Public.
Monday morning the ETHS held a wreath laying at the grave of Eliza Hodgson at the Old Grey Cemetery. Several members of the author’s family, as well as local dignitaries were in attendance.
The lecture will begin at noon at the East Tennessee History Center, and guests are invited to bring a “Brown Bag” lunch and enjoy the lecture. Soft drinks will be available. For more information on the lecture, exhibitions, or museum hours, call 865-215-8824 or visit the website at EastTNHistory.org.