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Kate Milner Rabb Kate Milner Rabb
(1886 - 1937)

Hoosier Connection: Kate Milner Rabb was a life-long Hoosier who wrote a popular weekly column, "A Hoosier Listening Post," for the Indianapolis Star as well as other essays and a novel.

Works Discussed: "The Pageant of Spencer County," "A Tour through Indiana in 1840," "No Mean City"

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 trees. (97-98)

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.

An early view of Monument Circle in Indianapolis
An 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." Rockport, Indiana.

---. A Tour through Indiana in 1840; The Diary of John Parsons of Petersburg, Virginia. Location: Publisher, 1920.

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. <
. Copyright (c) William H. Bass Photo Company.

"Rabb, Kate Milner." Indiana University Archives, IU Bloomington. 15 November 2002. <http://www.indiana.edu/~alumni/scrapbook/