The July-August, 2019 issue of Alaskan History Magazine features an article about Barrett Willoughby, Alaska’s first commercially successful female novelist. Her romantic stories, set in various parts of Alaska, were serialized in the most popular magazines of the day, and two of her books, Rocking Moon and Spawn of the North, were made into motion pictures. In addition to her popular novels, she wrote short stories, travel books, and character sketches of significant Alaskan pioneers.
The daughter of a riverboat captain and named after her mother, Florence was raised on Alaska’s waters. Some of her earliest Alaskan experiences are recounted in her first novel, Where the Sun Swings North (1922), available to read online free at Gutenberg.org. Florence – later taking the family name Barrett as her first name – grew to love Alaska, its land, history, and people—and all but one of her novels have an Alaskan setting. Many of her male protagonists were, like her father, riverboat captains, and all of her female protagonists shared her love of Alaska.
Biographer Nancy Warren Farrell wrote in Barrett Willoughby, Alaska’s Forgotten Lady (University of Alaska Press, 1994): “Willoughby’s novels were romantic adventures. And therein existed one of the keys to Willoughby’s personality and her writing. If one word depicted Barrett Willoughby as a person and as a writer, it would be ‘romance.’ It was the romantic outlook which urged her on, which kept her excited about the future. Her journey in life was like a steamer trip north: ‘A warm and magical Alaskan wind that fills me with expectancy and makes me sure that ahead––up around that next beckoning bend––lies something I’ve always longed for. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it’s beautiful; and it has in it youth and bouyancy––and that elusive, golden will o’ the wisp––Romance.’”
–Where the Sun Swings North (1922)
–Rocking Moon (1925)
–Gentlemen Unafraid (1926)
–The Trail Eater (1929)
–Sitka, Portal to Romance (1930)
–Spawn of the North (1932)
–Alaskans All (1933)
–River House (1936)
–Alaska Holiday (1940)
–The Golden Totem, a novel of modern Alaska (1945)
–Spawn of the North
July-August, 2019 Issue, Vol. 1, No. 2, postpaid
Alaskan bush pilots and early aviators, Alaska’s first newspaper, The Esquimaux; the Alaska Steamship Company; a 1916 horseback trip across the Kenai Peninsula by Frank G. Carpenter; Alaska’s first commercially successful novelist, Barrett Willoughby; and an exciting childhood in the gold rush town of Nome