Who Wrote Johnny Tremain?

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

When you were reading 'Johnny Tremain', did you ever wonder what the author, Esther Forbes, was like? Read the following lesson to hear all about her life, her novels, and her accomplishments!

Early Life

Esther Forbes, the author of Johnny Tremain, was born in 1891 in Westborough, Massachusetts to William Trowbridge Forbes and Harriette Merrifield. When Esther was seven, her family inherited a large parcel of land in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the family built a house on the land that they later called home.

Esther's parents were both educated and held professional jobs. Her father was an attorney, and her mother was a writer. Her parents passed on the importance of education to their children, and all six of them, both boys and girls, attended school. While her siblings thrived in school, Esther struggled; she had vision issues and dyslexia, which made learning challenging.

While attending the prestigious Bancroft School, one of Esther's teachers gave her a creative writing assignment. This appealed to Esther because she liked using her imagination. Esther shared her story with her teacher, but unfortunately the teacher immediately accused her of copying someone's work. From that moment on, Esther was much more hesitant to share her writing.

Professional Life

Esther returned to writing when she moved to Wisconsin to be with her sister, Cornelia, who taught at the University of Wisconsin. There Esther started writing more seriously, and Cornelia's fellow professors took Esther under their wing and encouraged her to try to publish her work. Esther penned a story called 'Breakneck Hill,' and it was not only published in a magazine, it won the 1915 O. Henry Prize for short stories. This was Esther's first big break.

Esther went on to marry (and later divorce), move back to Massachusetts, and, at the age of 35, published her first novel, O Genteel Lady!, which was met with positive reviews. Esther published several more novels for adults, mostly in the historical fiction genre (category of stories). This includes her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In.

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