Women Making History: Bernie Babcock

Julia Burnelle “Bernie” Smade Babcock was an author and museum founder.  When her husband died, leaving her with five children, she starting writing for money. She published several temperance novels and later wrote for the Arkansas Democrat.  She also published a magazine, wrote plays which were performed in New York, and authored a poetry anthology.

She later became recognized as an expert on Abraham Lincoln and wrote several books about him, as well as other historical figures.  For her writing skills, she became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Who’s Who in America.

In 1927, after professional curmudgeon H. L. Mencken wrote derisively of Arkansas, she decided to start a museum. The Museum of Natural History and Antiquities was first located in a Main Street storefront.  In 1929, she “gave the City of Little Rock a Christmas present” by giving the museum to the city.  It was relocated to the unfinished third floor of City Hall, with her as its employee. After being closed during part of the Great Depression, she relocated the museum to the Arsenal Building and reopened it as the Museum of Natural History.  She was involved in the efforts to rename City Park in honor of Douglas MacArthur (who had been born there) and welcomed him when he came to Little Rock in 1952.

Following her retirement in 1953, she moved to Petit Jean Mountain where she wrote and painted.

After more name changes and a relocation, her museum is now known as the Museum of Discovery and is an anchor in the River Market district.

Little Rock Look Back: Museum of Discovery is gifted to City in 1929

At the City Council meeting on December 19, 1929, Bernie Babcock presented the City of Little Rock with a Christmas present — the Museum of Natural History.

After the meeting was convened, Mrs. Babcock was given permission to make remarks to the City.  According to Council minutes from that meeting, she stated “she was at this time making a Christmas gift to the City of Little Rock in presenting to it the museum located on the third floor of the City Hall, setting forth, at length, the struggles in making the collections of which the museum is composed, and stressing the value of the museum to the city.”

Upon a motion, the museum was accepted by the City.  She then presented letters which formally made the offer to the City and suggested persons for a governing board.

Mrs. Babcock had been trying to get the City to accept the museum for a while.  She had been unsuccessful in getting Mayor Pat L. Robinson to agree to it after he took office in April 1929.  Ever-determined, she circumvented the mayor and went directly to the City Council. By December 1929, they had grown estranged from Mayor Robinson.

Since December 19, 1929, the museum has been affiliated with the City of Little Rock.  During that time, it has had several names and three locations.

LR Women Making History – Bernie Babcock

Julia Burnelle “Bernie” Smade Babcock was an author and museum founder.  When her husband died, leaving her with five children, she starting writing for money. She published several temperance novels and later wrote for the Arkansas Democrat.  She also published a magazine, wrote plays which were performed in New York, and authored a poetry anthology.  She later became recognized as an expert on Abraham Lincoln and wrote several books about him, as well as other historical figures.  For her writing skills, she became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Who’s Who in America.

In 1927, after professional curmudgeon H. L. Mencken wrote derisively of Arkansas, she decided to start a museum. The Museum of Natural History and Antiquities was first located in a Main Street storefront.  In 1929, she “gave the City of Little Rock a Christmas present” by giving the museum to the city.  It was relocated to the unfinished third floor of City Hall, with her as its employee. After being closed during part of the Great Depression, she relocated the museum to the Arsenal Building and reopened it as the Museum of Natural History.  She was involved in the efforts to rename City Park in honor of Douglas MacArthur (who had been born there) and welcomed him when he came to Little Rock in 1952.

Following her retirement in 1953, she moved to Petit Jean Mountain where she wrote and painted.

After more name changes and a relocation, her museum is now known as the Museum of Discovery and is an anchor in the River Market district.

Women’s History Month – Bernie Babcock

Julia Burnelle “Bernie” Smade Babcock was an author and museum founder.  When her husband died, leaving her with five children, she starting writing for money. She published several temperance novels and later wrote for the Arkansas Democrat.  She also published a magazine, wrote plays which were performed in New York, and authored a poetry anthology.  She later became recognized as an expert on Abraham Lincoln and wrote several books about him, as well as other historical figures.  For her writing skills, she became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Who’s Who in America.

In 1927, after professional curmudgeon H. L. Mencken wrote derisively of Arkansas, she decided to start a museum. The Museum of Natural History and Antiquities was first located in a Main Street storefront.  In 1929, she “gave the City of Little Rock a Christmas present” by giving the museum to the city.  It was relocated to the unfinished third floor of City Hall, with her as its employee. After being closed during part of the Great Depression, she relocated the museum to the Arsenal Building and reopened it as the Museum of Natural History.  She was involved in the efforts to rename City Park in honor of Douglas MacArthur (who had been born there) and welcomed him when he came to Little Rock in 1952.

Following her retirement in 1953, she moved to Petit Jean Mountain where she wrote and painted.

After more name changes and a relocation, her museum is now known as the Museum of Discovery and is an anchor in the River Market district.

Poetry Month: Bernie Babcock & “The Sun-Caressed Prairies of Arkansas”

BabcockBernie_fBernie Babcock was an author and museum founder.  Born in April 1868 in Ohio, she moved with her family to Arkansas as a child.  Marrying and starting a family, she also continued to write, which had been a passion since she was younger.  When her husband died, leaving her with five children, she starting writing for money. She published several temperance novels and later wrote for the Arkansas Democrat.  She also published a magazine and a poetry anthology.

In 1927, after professional curmudgeon H. L. Mencken wrote derisively of Arkansas, she decided to start a museum. The Museum of Natural History and Antiquities was first located in a Main Street storefront.  In 1929, she “gave the City of Little Rock a Christmas present” by giving the museum to the city.  She was associated with the museum until her retirement in 1953.  She moved to Petit Jean Mountain and wrote and painted. After her death in June 1962, she was buried at Oakland Cemetery.

This is her poem “The Sun-Caressed Prairies of Arkansas” which is found in the 1906 book Pictures and Poems Of Arkansas which she co-edited with O. C. Ludwig.

The Sun-Caressed Prairies of Arkansas

From a line on the east
To a line on the west,
Where the green of the field
Meets the blue of the sky,
Stretching boundless and free
As the breast of the sea
The sun-caressed prairies
Of Arkansas lie.

Here acre bounds acre
In rich store of treasure;
Here the grain and the grass
In luxuriance vie;
Here the billowing rice,
For man’s toil pays the price
Where the sun-caressed prairies
Of Arkansas lie.

The meadow lark’s song
And the spring blossom’s grace
Make a poem delighting
The ear and the eye;
But this poem’s meaning
Proves best in the gleaning—
Where the sun-caressed prairies
Of Arkansas lie.