Hoosier Authors: Annie Fellows Johnston

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

As we continue our series, “Hoosier Authors”, we are continuing to examine authors who has family ties to Indiana. Our next entry hits home here in Evansville because she was native to the area. This author is famously known for her children’s book series, The Little Colonel: she is Annie Fellows Johnston.

Portrait photograph of Annie Johnston Fellows, n.d. Source: Pewee Valley Historical Society

Johnston was born on May 15, 1863 in McCutchanville, Indiana, just north of Evansville, Indiana. Her father died when she was two; however, he left his legacy through her by leaving a large literature collection. She attended the University of Iowa; however, Johnston did not stay there long until returning to Evansville as a teacher. Johnston married her cousin, William Johnston, until his death in 1892, leaving three stepchildren. Before his death, William encouraged Annie to pursue a career in writing (“Annie Fellows Johnston”, n.d.).

Johnston published her first novel, Big Brother, in 1893. In 1895, she returned to Evansville where she wrote The Little Colonel. The book became popular, leading to thirteen additional volumes over the next thirty years. Eventually, Johnston left Evansville and went to Pewee Valley, Kentucky; nonetheless, Johnston moved to numerous locations in the Southwestern United States until she returned to Pewee Valley. Johnston passed away on October 5, 1931 (“Annie Fellows Johnston”, n.d.).

Book cover of “The Little Colonel’s Hero” (1902) by Annie Fellows Johnston. Source: University Archives and Special Collections

The Little Colonel is not a prominent book series today; however, they are extremely popular in their prime. In 1935, The Little Colonel was produced on the silver screen, featuring Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore. As Levar Burton always said on Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it”. Read it for yourself!


Annie Fellows Johnston: a short biography (n.d.). Retrieved from