Kate Milner Rabb was born in 1866 to Dr. Isaac
and Mrs. Henrietta Livingston of Rockport,
Indiana. She attended Indiana University where she met her
future husband Albert Rabb. After graduation, she taught in
the towns of Jeffersonville
and Rockport before the newly married couple moved to Indianapolis.
While Mr. Rabb became a successful attorney in Indianapolis,
Mrs. Rabb began to take up writing.
In 1916, she wrote "The
Pageant of Spencer County" for the centennial
celebration of the county in which she was born. Rabb described
the pageant as a dramatic telling of "the history of
the county from the Indian Occupation to the present time
. . ." (5). In this drama, Rabb mentions the "[d]estruction
of forests" and "founding of cities" in
the opening song, "Spirit of the Ohio."
Rabb also wrote several articles
for contemporary periodicals of her time. However, Kate Milner
Rabb did not focus on her writing until after her husband’s
death in 1918. In 1920, she published her only novel,
A Tour through Indiana in 1840. This historical
novel was cleverly disguised as a journal written by Mr. John
Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia, that was edited by Mrs. Rabb.
Scholars concluded that Rabb in fact wrote the journal after
they could not find any record of a person by the name of
John Parsons who wrote a diary.
The novel describes the travels
of Mr. Parsons on a trip from Virginia to the young state of Indiana.
As Parsons traveled, he visited many leading towns of the time including
Madison, Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Greencastle, Vincennes, and
Lafayette among others on his way to find a suitable
place to live. In addition to observing cultural activities, Parsons
described the landscape of Indiana in his diary as in this example
about Franklin County, Indiana:
. . . [T]he hills, clad in
trees of varying shades of green, towered high, their tops veiled
in mist. Between the rifts in the hills gushed little streams;
in every hollow a pool rested, the hue of emerald from the o’erhanging
Much of Rabb's descriptions
of landscapes in the book convey a romantic tone like this one.
In order to write the novel, Rabb based much of her writing on research
she gathered from her column in the Indianapolis Star entitled
"A Hoosier Listening Post" as well as on her own personal
experience of traveling around the Hoosier state.
early view of Monument Circle from Meridian and Ohio Streets
in Indianapolis. Copyright, Indiana Historical Society
Rabb also wrote "No
Mean City" about the history of the Indianapolis
area. In this pamphlet, Rabb describes the history of the
area, from its discovery until the time the pamphlets were
written in the early 1920s. The essays also provide glimpses
of what the area looked like before it was settled. In "No
Mean City", Rabb describes the landscape of what is now
Monument Circle in Indianapolis: "On a natural elevation
almost in the center, thickly set with a growth of tall, straight
sugar trees, was established the 'Circle'... "(7). The
pamphlets also describe the economic status of the city.
Although Rabb did not focus on writing until later
in her life, her works are an important part of Indiana literature
that allow readers to catch a glimpse of life in an earlier time.
Through the use of research and personal experiences, Kate Milner
Rabb was able to recreate scenes that demonstrate the uniqueness
of the Indiana landscapes and Hoosiers.
Banta, R.E., Ed. "Kate Milner
Rabb." Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816-1916.
Biographical sketches of authors who published during the
first century of Indiana statehood with lists of their books.
Crawfordsville, IN: Wabash College, 1949: 262.
Rabb, Kate Milner. No Mean City.
Indianapolis, IN: L.S Ayres & Company, 1922.
---. "The pageant of Spencer
County: presented July 4, 1916 at Rockport, Indiana."
---. A Tour through Indiana in
1840; The Diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia. Location:
Shumaker, Arthur Wesley. A History
of Indiana Literature, with Emphasis on the Authors of Imaginative
Works Who Commenced Writing Prior to World War II. Indianapolis:
Indiana Historical Bureau, 1962: 434-436.
"Meridian and Ohio Street."
Archives, Indiana Historical Society. William H. Bass Photo
Collection. 15 November. <http://18.104.22.168/cgi-bin/scandoc.cgi?app=1&folder
=506&doc=21>. Copyright (c) William H. Bass Photo
"Rabb, Kate Milner." Indiana
University Archives, IU Bloomington. 15 November 2002. <http://www.indiana.edu/~alumni/scrapbook/