“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were — Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”
And thus began the career of Helen Beatrix Potter as we know it. Beatrix was born in 1866 to a privileged household and was educated in her London home by governesses. In 1883, nineteen year old Miss Annie Carter was appointed as governess to sixteen year old Beatrix Potter. The two become very close. Two years later Ms. Carter left to marry Edwin Moore and start a family. Soon thereafter, Beatrix acquired her first pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer. Her pet rabbit, named Peter, is acquired later.
Beatrix enjoyed traveling with her family during the summer to the Lake District of Northern England. She and her brother were given the opportunity to investigate the countryside. With her artistic eye, she was particularly intrigued by mushrooms. During this time she started drawing extremely detailed drawings of fungi and spores. Recognizing her talent, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew invited her to study fungi and learn to make her drawings more scientific. It is here that she studied fungi and wrote her own scientific paper entitled, “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae.” Sadly at this time, women were not allowed to present research, so George Massee, a fungi expert who worked at the Kew gardens, agreed to present her paper to the Linnean Society of London. Although the paper has since been lost, scientists still recognize her contributions to the field of mycological research.
In 1893 Beatrix sent Annie Moore’s sons, Noel and Eric, stories about a rabbit named Peter and a picture letter about a frog called Mr. Jeremy Fisher. With these stories, she began the now famous Tales of Beatrix Potter. She and her brother, Bertram, had many pets which became the subject of her illustrations and writings. When Beatrix Potter was 36, Frederick Warne published The Tale of Peter Rabbit which had been rejected by other firms. Potter then averaged producing two books every year until 1910. During the course of her life, she and her husband, William Heelis, acquired over 4000 acres, seventeen farms, and eight cottages which were all bequeathed to the National Trust upon their death.
In 1987, Dr. Athlene Carter, HPU Class of 1964, was given a trip to the British Isles by her husband, Lester. During this trip she visited the Beatrix Potter farm. While there, she purchased Beatrix Potter items from the gift shop. Because of her lifelong love of Peter Rabbit, she has continued to collect Beatrix Potter books and figurines. With quite a sizable collection, she decided to donate it to a local elementary school media center in the Lexington City Schools system where she worked. Dr. Carter began her career teaching fourth and fifth grade before becoming a principal. She later moved to the Central Office staff where she wore many hats such as Elementary Supervisor, Title 1 Director, as well assuming other responsibilities before her retirement. At this elementary school, the principal purchased a very nice cabinet to house the collection. After a few years, Dr. Carter visited the school to donate school supplies to find that the cabinet was gone, and the collection was boxed and sitting in a classroom. The former principal, Dr. Lisa Horne, now a professor in the School of Education at High Point University, suggested that Dr. Carter donate it to High Point University. This collection is now permanently housed in the High Point University’s School of Education Resource Center.
We appreciate the donation from Dr. Carter and the suggestion from Dr. Horne. You may visit the Beatrix Potter collection in the Stout School of Education. The Resource Center is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 10:00 until 4:00 and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 until 8:00. This facility houses a collection of many children’s books which are available for check out for all High Point University faculty and students.
-Blog post by Pam Grubb, Education Librarian
Frederick Warne & Co. (2016). About Beatrix Potter. Retrieved from http://www.peterrabbit.com/about-beatrix-potter/
Lear, Linda. (2011). About Beatrix Potter. The Beatrix Potter Society. Retrieved from https://beatrixpottersociety.org.uk/about-beatrix/
Potter, Beatrix. (1989). The complete tales of Beatrix Potter: The 23 original Peter Rabbit books. London: F. Warne.