A Year in the Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett Sesquicentennial Event Celebration

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Frances Hodgson Burnett Sesquicentennial Event Celebration

While researching A Year in the Secret Garden I discovered that author Frances Hodgson Burnett lived in the United States from 1865 until she went back for a visit to England in 1872. Another great discovery was that she lived in the town next to our Knoxville and then up in the Jefferson City area of Tennessee.

When Frances Hodgson was three years old her father died leaving her mother to care for 5 children and her husband’s shop. After 10 years of limbing along, Eliza Hodgson, France’s mother, decided to close the shop in 1865 and move to the Knoxville Tennessee area to accept her brother’s offer. Eliza’s brother told her that he was doing very well in commerce. When Eliza arrived with her 5 children she discovered that her brother was living in a log cabin and that the South had been ravaged by years of civil war. Her brother’s business turned out to be a shady one. The only thing that kept them from starving were the care and goodness of their neighbors.

burnett in tn

At first France’s tired to open a school and seminary for young ladies but that wasn’t successful. Seeing the advertisements in the back of magazines asking for writer’s submissions. Frances sent to a few magazines finally publishing “Hearts and  Diamonds” in  Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine in 1868. From this point on everything that Frances wrote was never rejected by a publisher. It was this story that began her long career as a writer. Her American audience loved her mixture of Victorian English themes with very American logic. Frances had the talent of being able to communicate with both sets of English speakers. Those from America and those from England.


Less than a year later, Frances and her family moved to Knoxville Tennessee to a large house with a wonderful view of the meadows and forests as well as the river. They called their house Vagabond and I hear it was really spectacular. It’s been torn down but the memory of it still lingers. Their house became the center of music, story-telling, all day writing bouts, and courtship.

During this time, Frances met and captivated Swan Burnett, who was a medical student. They were in the same circle of friends for a couple of years before he proposed to her. All of her brothers and sisters had married before her. After a long visit home to England in 1872, she accepted Swan’s proposal. She accepted not because she loved him deeply but because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

swan Burnett

They married in 1873 and nearly a year later to the day, their son Lionel was born in Knoxville. 6 months later they moved to Paris where Swan studied Ophthalmology, and Frances wrote night and day to support her family. Soon Frances became pregnant again and delivered another son Vivian.

burnett and son

Frances Hodgson Burnett lived her life traveling between the United States and Europe. Her descendants continue to live in the United States however.

This year the New Market/Knoxville areas are celebrating 150 years since Frances Hodgson Burnett’s moved to the United States in 1865. On hand will be her great grand-daughter Penny Deupree, as well as her great great grandchildren.

Penny Deupree, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s great-grand daughter, is coming from her home in Texas to give three free public presentations and display some of Burnett’s personal belongings.

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All three presentations are the same. The dates, times and locations are as follows:

  • Monday, November 16, at 7 p.m., at the Appalachian Center at Carson-Newman University, located at 1603 Russell Avenue, Jefferson City;
    • Tuesday, November 17 at 6:30 p.m., at New Market Elementary School, located at 1559 West Old Andrew Johnson Highway; and
    • Thursday, November 19 at 6:30 p.m., at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 202 West Main Street, Dandridge. This is a joint meeting of the Jefferson County Historical Society and Jefferson County Genealogical Society.

I have the distinct honor of also being asked to attend and jump into the pages of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved tale The Secret Garden. Many of my appearances are right before Penny Deupree’s presentations.

  • Tuesday November 17th 5:30-6:00 PM Secret Garden Activities for kids
  • 6:00-6:30 PM Book Signing of A Year in the Secret Garden
  • Thursday November 19th 10:50 to 11:45 The importance of Extension Activities in Children’s Literature, Carson Newman College.
  • Thursday November 19th 3:00 pm Jefferson City Public Library Homeschool Event Exploring the World of the Secret Garden. Fun and Activities included.
  • Thursday, November 19th 5:30-6:00 Book Activity at the Jefferson City Courthouse
  • 6:00-6:30 Book Signing of A Year in the Secret Garden

Saturday November 20th Live and Silent Auction. A Year in the Secret Garden Basket, and a chance to bid on a real live Secret Garden Tea Party. New Hope Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center.

We’ll be celebrating this grand 150th-anniversary event all year long.

I co-created, along with illustrator Marilyn Scott-Waters, A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families. Each month unlocks the mysteries to the Secret Garden using games, outdoor and gardening activities, paper toys, crafts, cooking, historical information, and character profiles, all based on The Secret Garden.

A Year in the Secrey Garden

If you’d like to invite me to present a program on The Secret Garden and Frances Hodgson Burnett I’d be happy to do so. Please contact me at budayr at gmail dot com. 


This holiday season, give your children the gift that will nurture a lifetime of positive habits; give the gift of a book.

A Year in The Secret Garden

As parents, we want/need quality books with extension activities to help our young ones unplug and create memories. Pulling books from shelves, and stories from pages, is also an important act that will aid in them being life-long readers. Quality books with companion book extension activities are not only work to create special family time, it allows kids to solve the world’s problems without major consequences.

A Year in the Secret Garden is just such a book. This delightful children’s book from authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters offers unique and original month-by-month activities that allow readers to delve deeper into the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden! With over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together.

This book will make a great gift and be the catalyst of many hours of family growth, learning and FUN! Grab your copy ASAP and “meet me in the garden!” More details HERE!
A Year in the Secret Garden

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