Johnny Tremain: Biography: Esther Forbes
Esther Forbes was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1891. Forbes’ father was a mathematician and judge, but it is likely that she developed her love of history and historical writing from her mother, Harriette, who published on historical topics. Forbes graduated from Bradford Academy and attended the University of Wisconsin. For a time she was employed as an editor at Houghton Mifflin. She married Albert Hoskins in 1926 and divorced him in 1933; the couple had no children. Forbes was the first woman to become a member of the American Antiquarian society. She died in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1967.
Her most famous work is Johnny Tremain (1943), a novel about a young silversmith’s apprentice who finds himself involved with many important historical figures during the beginnings of the American Revolution. For Johnny Tremain, Forbes received the Newberry Award for most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 1943, and the novel was made into a film by Walt Disney in 1957. It remains a classic today.
In addition to Johnny Tremain, Forbes produced a sizeable body of work, primarily historical novels. Her first novel, O Genteel Lady!, was published in1926 and was selected as an offering by the Book of the Month Club. It concerns an independent woman who becomes involved with several famous English literary figures. A Mirror for Witches (1928) is a psychological thriller about a young woman who is accused of being a witch. Miss Marvel, produced in 1935, focuses on a woman who creates an imaginary lover. Paradise (1937) is a historical romance set in Massachusetts Bay Colony. The General’s Lady (1938), set in the closing years of the American Revolution, is based on a true event and focuses on a woman who contrives the murder of her husband. The Running of the Tide (1948) is set in early nineteenth-century Salem and examines the lives of the Crowninshields, a family of wealthy Salem merchant mariners. In 1948, Forbes returned her focus to Paul Revere and, with Lynd Ward, produced America’s Paul Revere, another work of children’s literature. Rainbow on the Road (1955) is Forbes’ final novel and concerns the exploits of a traveling portrait painter.
Forbes’ non-fiction works include Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, published in 1942, for which she received the Pulitzer Prize for history.