Johnson, Helen Kendrick (1844–1917)

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Johnson, Helen Kendrick (1844–1917)

American author, editor, and anti-suffragist. Name variations: Mrs. Rossiter Johnson. Born Helen Louise Kendrick on January 4, 1844, in Hamilton, New York; died on January 3, 1917, in New York City; daughter of Asabel Kendrick and Anne Elizabeth (Hopkins) Kendrick; tutored at home; attended Oread Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1863–1864; married Rossiter Johnson (a newspaper editor), in May 1869; children: two who died young, although she may have had others.

Selected works:

Roddy's Romance (1874); Tears for the Little Ones: A Collection of Poems and Passages Inspired by the Loss of Children (edited by Johnson, 1878); Our Familiar Songs and Those Who Made Them (1881); Illustrated Poems and Songs for Young People (edited by Johnson, 1884); Raleigh Westgate; or Epimenides in Maine (a novel, 1889); (with H. P. Smith) A Dictionary of Terms, Phrases, and Quotations (1895); Women and the Republic (articles and arguments against woman suffrage, 1897); (editor) Great Essays (1900); Mythology and Folk-Lore of the North American Indian (1908).

Born in 1844, in Hamilton, New York, and raised there and in Rochester and Clinton, New York, Helen Kendrick Johnson was tutored by her father, a professor of Greek, and spent a year at Oread Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. She married journalist Rossiter Johnson in 1869, and the couple settled in Concord, New Hampshire, where he edited the New Hampshire Statesman until 1873. They then moved to New York City.

Johnson's earliest works were a series of children's stories, the "Roddy" books, followed by Tears for the Little Ones, written after the death of her first two children to ease her own grief and to help other parents in a similar situation. Other books for children followed, including Our Familiar Songs and Those Who Made Them (1881), a collection of ancient and current ballads that remained in print for a long time, and her six-volume collection of epigrams known as the "Nutshell" series (1884), published under the titles: Philosophy, Wisdom, Sentiments, Proverbs, Wit and Humor, Epigram and Epitaph. These were subsequently published in a single volume, Short Sayings of Famous Men (1884).

During her tenure as editor of the American Woman's Journal from 1894 to 1896, Johnson became active in the suffrage movement. However, she later changed her position and became an outspoken anti-suffragist. A collection of her articles and arguments against suffrage, Women and the Republic, published in 1897, was harshly attacked. Johnson rejected the arguments concerning women's equality with men on the grounds that women were already superior. Johnson also contributed to Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia, which her husband edited from 1883 to 1902. Her last work centered on Indian folklore. Helen Kendrick Johnson died in New York City on January 3, 1917.


Mainiero, Lina, ed. American Women Writers. NY: Frederick Ungar, 1980.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Johnson, Helen Kendrick (1844–1917)

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