Monday, March 17, 2014

Women of the 19th Century


“Eminent Women 1884.” Lithograph (post D K Fennell) by Eugene L’Africain. Nora Perry is standing middle right in the light dress. The other women: Mary A. Livermore, Sara Jewett, Grace A. Oliver, Helen Hunt, Lucy Larcom, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Louise Chandler Moulton, Louisa M. Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe.


 Miss Alcott taken about 1862

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail "Abba" Ma name was spelled Alcocke in English history. About 1616 a coat-of-arms was granted to Thomas Alcocke of Silbertoft, in the county of Leicester. The device represents three cocks, emblematic of watchfulness; and the motto is Semper Vigilans.
The first of the name appearing in English history is John Alcocke of Beverley, Yorkshire, of whom Fuller gives an account in his Worthies of England.
Thomas and George Alcocke were the first of the name among the settlers in New England. The name is frequently found in the records of Dorchester and Roxbury, and has passed through successive changes to its present form.
The name of Bronson came from Mr. Alcott's maternal grandfather, the sturdy Capt. Amos Bronson of Plymouth, Conn. "His ancestors on both sides had been substantial people of respectable position in England, and were connected with the founders and governors of the chief New England colonies. At the time of Mr. Alcott's birth they had become simple farmers, reaping a scanty living from their small farms in Connecticut."
Amos Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa, was born Nov. 29, 1799, at the foot of Spindle Hill, in the region called New Connecticut. He has himself given in simple verse the story of his quaint rustic life in his boyhood, and Louisa has reproduced it in her story of "Eli's Education" (in the Spinning-Wheel Stories), which gives a very true account of his youthful life and adventures. He derived his refined, gentle nature from his mother, who had faith in her son, and who lived to see him the accomplished scholar he had vowed to become in his boyhood. Although brought up in these rustic surroundings, his manners were always those of a true gentleman. The name of the little mountain town afterward became Wolcott, and Louisa 13 records in her journal a pilgrimage made thither in after years.
Louisa Alcott's mother was a daughter of Col. Joseph May of Boston. This family is so well known that it is hardly necessary to repeat its genealogy here. She was a sister of Samuel J. May, for many years pastor of the Unitarian church at Syracuse, who was so tenderly beloved by men of all religious persuasions in his home, and so widely known and respected for his courage and zeal in the Antislavery cause, as well as for his many philanthropic labors.

Abigail May Alcott

Mrs. Alcott's mother was Dorothy Sewall, a descendant of that family already distinguished in the annals of the Massachusetts colony, and which has lost nothing of its reputation for ability and virtue in its latest representatives. Below  Dorothy Sewall


Mrs. Alcott inherited in large measure the traits which distinguished her family. She was a woman of large stature, fine physique, and overflowing life. Her temper was as quick and warm as her affections, but she was full of broad unselfish generosity. Her untiring energies were constantly employed, not only for the benefit of her family, but for all 14 around her. She had a fine mind, and if she did not have large opportunities for scholastic instruction, she always enjoyed the benefit of intellectual society and converse with noble minds. She loved expression in writing, and her letters are full of wit and humor, keen criticism, and noble moral sentiments. Marriage with an idealist, who had no means of support, brought her many trials and privations. She bore them heroically, never wavering in affection for her husband or in devotion to her children. If the quick, impatient temper sometimes relieved itself in hasty speech, the action was always large and unselfish.
Photos from Concord Library Amos Bronson Alcott on steps of Concord School of Philosophy & Louisa May Alcott, seated, pen in hand


It will be apparent from Louisa's life that she inherited the traits of both her parents, and that the uncommon powers of mind and heart that distinguished her were not accidental, but the accumulated result of the lives of generations of strong and noble men and women.
The family removed to Boston in 1834, and Mr. Alcott opened his famous school in Masonic Temple. Louisa was too young to attend the school except as an occasional visitor; but she found plenty of interest and amusement for herself in playing on the Common, making friends with every child she met, and on one occasion 18 falling into the Frog Pond. She has given a very lively picture of this period of her life in "Poppy's Pranks," that vivacious young person being a picture of herself, not at all exaggerated.
The family lived successively in Front Street, Cottage Place, and Beach Street during the six succeeding years in Boston. They occasionally passed some weeks at Scituate during the summer, which the children heartily enjoyed.


Mrs. Hawthorne (pic above) gives a little anecdote which shows how the child's heart was blossoming in this family sunshine: "One morning in Front Street, at the breakfast table, Louisa suddenly broke silence, with a sunny smile saying, 'I love everybody in dis whole world.'"
Two children were born during this residence in Boston. Elizabeth was named for Mr. Alcott's assistant in his school,–Miss E. P. Peabody, since so widely known and beloved by all friends of education. A boy was born only to die. The little body was laid reverently away in the lot of Colonel May in the old burial-ground on the Common, and the children were taught to speak with tenderness of their "baby brother."
When Louisa was about seven years old she made a visit to friends in Providence. Miss C. writes of her: "She is a beautiful little girl to look upon, and I love her affectionate manners. I think she is more like her mother than either of the others." As is usually the case, Louisa's journal, which she began at this early age, speaks more fully of her struggles and difficulties than of the bright, sunny moods which made her attractive. A 19 little letter carefully printed and sent home during this visit is preserved. In it she says she is not happy; and she did have one trying experience there, to which she refers in "My Boys." Seeing some poor children who she thought were hungry, she took food from the house without asking permission, and carried it to them, and was afterward very much astonished and grieved at being reprimanded instead of praised for the deed. Miss C. says: "She has had several spells of feeling sad; but a walk or a talk soon dispels all gloom. She was half moody when she wrote her letter; but now she is gay as a lark. She loves to play out of doors, and sometimes she is not inclined to stay in when it is unpleasant." In her sketches of "My Boys" she describes two of her companions here, not forgetting the kindness of the one and the mischievousness of the other.
Although the family were quite comfortable during the time of Mr. Alcott's teaching in Boston, yet the children wearied of their extremely simple diet of plain boiled rice without sugar, and graham meal without butter or molasses. An old friend who could not eat the bountiful rations provided for her at the United States Hotel, used to save her piece of pie or cake for the Alcott children. Louisa often took it home to the others in a bandbox which she brought for the purpose.
This friend was absent in Europe many years, and returned to find the name of Louisa Alcott famous. When she met the authoress on the street she was eagerly greeted. "Why, I did not think you would remember me!" said the old lady. 20 "Do you think I shall ever forget that bandbox?" was the instant reply.


In 1840, Mr. Alcott's school having proved unsuccessful, the family removed to Concord, Mass., and took a cottage which is described in "Little Women" as "Meg's first home," although Anna never lived there after her marriage. It was a pleasant house, with a garden full of trees, and best of all a large barn, in which the children could have free range and act out all the plays with which their little heads were teeming. Of course it was a delightful change from the city for the children, and here they passed two very happy years, for they were too young to understand the cares which pressed upon the hearts of their parents. Life was full of interest. One cold morning they found in the garden a little half-starved bird; and having warmed and fed it, Louisa was inspired to write a pretty poem to "The Robin." The fond mother was so delighted that she said to her, "You will grow up a Shakspeare!" From the lessons of her father she had formed the habit of writing freely, but this is the first recorded instance of her attempting to express her feelings in verse. From the influences of such parentage as I have described, the family life in which Louisa was brought up became wholly unique. Louisa May Alcott Her Life, Letters, and Journals by Louisa May Alcott Editor: Ednah D. Cheney
Article From Saturday, May 1, 1880 Paper: Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, MI)


Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (1844–1911) daughter of Austin Phelps and Elizabeth [Wooster] Stuart Phelps

A Great Article Before bra-burning feminists, there was Andover author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps by Jennifer Tarbox Andover Historical Society
Most girls living in the mid-19th century were raised to be homemakers. Duties included caring for their husbands and children, cleaning the house and preparing meals. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, daughter of distinguished Professor Austin Phelps, chairman of Rhetoric and Homiletics at the Andover Theological Seminary, led a much different lifestyle than most women during this time period.
Elizabeth was born Mary Gray Phelps on Aug. 31, 1844 and was the eldest child and only daughter in her family. Her mother passed away from birth complications when Mary was 8 and from then on she decided to take her mother's name, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. (Mrs. Phelps was an author in her own right, completing the Kitty Brown books under the pen name H. Trusta.) The Phelps family resided on 189 Main St. on Andover Hill.
Phelps' father encouraged her studies, particularly her writing. Her first piece of work was published in "Youths' Companion" when she was just 13 years old. Growing up, Phelps attended Abbot Female Seminary and later Mrs. Edwards School in Andover, conducted by a faculty wife. Throughout her life, she authored 57 books, including fiction for children, poetry, and numerous essays on women's issues.
At the age of 19 Phelps left school and did reform work, which encompassed teaching the children from factory families employed by the Smith and Dove Manufacturing Co. She also worked with tenement dwellers, which helped inspire her lifelong commitment to improving conditions for the working class.
In 1869, when Phelps was 24, her first book was published, in which she offered a comforting view of the afterlife to women who had lost loved ones in the Civil War. This debut novel, The Gates Ajar, brought her literary fame overnight. In 1886, another book, The Madonna of the Tubs, was published, adding to her growing reputation. A later novella, Loveliness, espoused animal rights. In 1896 Phelps published her autobiography, Chapters from a Life, which had been serialized in McClure's Magazine.
Phelps was also known for challenging the notion that a woman's place was in the home, believing that women's intellectual potential disappeared in domestic pursuits. She had many radical ideas, such as believing it was a woman's right to keep her own name after marriage and believing that women could be financially independent through equal rights, including equal pay. She was also involved in clothing reform for women, urging them in 1874 to burn their corsets.
When Phelps was 44 years old she shocked family and friends by marrying Herbert Dickinson Ward, her editor's son and a journalist who was 17 years younger. Phelps had known Ward since his childhood. The two were married by Elizabeth's brother, the Rev. Lawrence Phelps, at her Gloucester cottage. Unfortunately, their marriage was an unhappy one. Dickinson was a wanderer and more interested in his mineral collection and going to yachting parties with his young friends than being around his famous wife.
In 1911 Phelps became gravely ill, and died on Jan. 28 of that year. She carefully planned her funeral in advance, which was held on Feb. 1, 1911 at First Baptist Church in Newton Center. Her brother Lawrence conducted the service and her ashes were buried at a Newton Cemetery.
Her last novel, Comrades, was published posthumously.



From Monday, December 30, 1895 Boston Journal  Volume: LXII   Issue: 20520 Page: 5



Louisa Chandler age 20
Louise Chandler Moulton (1835 -1908) daughter of Lucius L. Chandler married Louisa Rebecca Clark
In few lives have these possibilities been more fully realized than in that of Louise Chandler Moulton, poet and friend, and lover of the beautiful. Poet born and poet made, she developed her natural lyric gift into a rare mastery of poetic art. She wore her singing-robes with an unconscious grace, and found in her power of song the determining influence which colored and shaped her life. Her lyrics were the spontaneous expression, the natural out-pouring, of a lofty and beautiful spirit. Her poetic instinct radiated in her ardent and generous sympathies, her exquisite interpretations of sentiment and feeling; it informed all her creative work with a subtle charm pervasive as the fragrance of a rose. Her artistic impulse was, indeed, the very mainspring of her life; it expressed itself not only in the specific forms of lyrics and of prose romance, but in her varied range of friendships and in her intense and discriminating love of literature.
Her life as well as her art expressed her gift of song. She was a poet not only in singing, but no less in living. Her friendships were singularly wide and eclectic, determined always from the inner vision. They were the friendships of mutual recognition and of sympathetic-3- ministry. Her tenderness of feeling responded to every human need. Others might turn away from the unattractive; to her the simple fact that kindness was needed was a claim which she could not deny.
This was the more striking from the fact that from her early girlhood her gifts, her culture, and her personal charm won recognition in the most brilliant circles. To be as unconsciously gracious to peasant as to prince was in her very nature. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, alluding to Mrs. Moulton's social prestige in London, wrote:
"... It is pleasant to feel that she owes this result quite as much to her qualities of character as to her gifts of intellect. There never lived, perhaps, a more thoroughly open-hearted and generous woman; and the poorest and least gifted applicant might always seek her as successfully as the most famous and influential."
This symmetry of character, a certain fine balance of the gifts of mind and heart, was the natural outcome, it may be, of a worthy ancestry. So far as is known, the Chandlers lived originally in Hampshire, England, where, in the sixteenth century, arms were granted to them. Many of these Chandlers were men-4- distinguished in their day. In 1887 was commemorated at Philadelphia the two hundredth anniversary of the arrival in this country of one of the first Chandlers known to have immigrated. This was a follower of Fox, who fled from persecution, and settled in Pennsylvania. A group of ten English Puritans settled long before the Revolution in what was afterward the township of Pomfret, Connecticut: and from one of these was descended Lucius Chandler, the father of Louise. The Chandler family throughout gave evidence of decided intellectual ability, and this was strengthened by marriages with other sound Puritan stock. Through her paternal grandmother Mrs. Moulton was descended from the Rev. Aaron Cleveland, of literary reputation in the late eighteenth century, and of account in his day as a wit. This relationship linked her in remote cousinship with Edmund Clarence Stedman, a tie which both cherished. The two poets congratulated themselves on a common great-grandmother who was a classical scholar, famed for her familiarity with Greek.
Lucius L. Chandler married Louisa Rebecca Clark, also of good English ancestry. Mrs. Chandler has been described by Harriet Prescott Spofford as "a gentle, gracious-5- woman, a noted beauty in her youth, but singularly free from the vanity and selfishness of most noted beauties." The only surviving child of this marriage was born at Pomfret on April 10, 1835, and was christened Ellen Louise. Mr. Chandler's farm lay on the edge of the quiet Connecticut town, the landscape pleasantly diversified by adjacent hills and forests, and the modest, comfortable home was surrounded by flowers and trees.

Louisa Rebecca Chandler

A winsome little sprite seems Ellen Louise to have been, revealing, even in her earliest years, a quaint touch of her father's courtly dignity combined with her mother's refinement and unerring sense of the amenities of life. Mrs. Chandler's fastidious taste and a certain innate instinct for the fitness of things, invested her always with a personal elegance that surrounded her like an atmosphere. A picture lived in her daughter's memory of her arriving one day, in a bonnet with pink roses, to visit the school; and of her own childish thought that no other little girl had so pretty a mother as her own.
Edmund Clarence Stedman, who had just left Yale College and who, at the beginning of his literary career, was editing a country paper in Connecticut, greeted Miss Chandler's book with the ardent praise of youth and friendship; but these warm phrases of approval were also the almost unanimous expression of all the reviewers of the day.

The Library in Mrs. Moulton’s Boston Home,
28 Rutland Square

The twentieth century reader may smile at Mr. Stedman's youthful distrust of the "strong-minded woman," but his remarks are interesting. Of "This, That, and the Other," he wrote:
"'This, That, and the Other,' is a collection of prose sketches and verse from the pen of a young lady fast rising into a literary reputation; a reputation which, though it is achieved in no 'Uncle Tom' or 'Fanny Fern' mode, is no less sure than that of Mrs. Stowe, or Sara Payson Willis, and will be more substantial, in that the works on which it is founded are more classic and in better taste.... Miss Chandler is a native of Pomfret in this state, and every denizen of Connecticut should be proud of her talents. She is beautiful and interesting; her manners are in marked distinction from the forwardness of the strong-minded woman of the day...."
Epes Sargent, in the Boston Transcript, said:
"... The ladies have invaded the field of fiction and carried off its most substantial triumphs. Mrs. Stowe, Fanny Fern, and now another name, if the portents do not deceive us, is about to be added—that of Miss Chandler, who although the youngest of the band (she is not yet nineteen), is overflowing with genius and promise. Such tales as those of 'Silence Adams,' 'A Husking Party at Ryefield,' 'Agnes Lee,' and 'Only an Old Maid,' reveal the pathos, the beauty, the power, the depth and earnestness of emotion that Ellen Louise has the art of transfusing into the humblest and most commonplace details.... But Ellen Louise must not be deceived by injudicious admiration. Her style, purified, chastened and subdued, would lose none of its attractiveness. She gives evidence of too noble a habit of thought to desire the success which comes of the hasty plaudits of the hour." The book reviewing of 1853 was apparently not unlike the spelling of George Eliot's poor Mr. Tulliver,—"a matter of private judgment." For although the stories of Ellen Louise were singularly sweet and winsome in their tone, with an unusual grasp of sentiment and glow of fancy for so youthful and inexperienced a writer, they could yet hardly claim to rank with the work of Mrs. Stowe. The leading papers of that day united, however, in an absolute chorus of praise for the young author, who is pronounced "charming," and "overflowing with talent"; the "refinement and delicacy" of her work, her "rare maturity of thought and style," and a myriad other literary virtues were discerned and celebrated to the extent that the resources of the language of the country would allow.  
Louise Chandler Moulton Poet and Friend by Lilian Whiting

Helen Hiscock Backus
Helen Hiscock Backus (1865-1906) (Pic above) daughter of Luther Harris Hiscock (1824 -1867) and Lucy Bridgman Hiscock (1828 -1861) passed from this life on the eighth day of January. Her years covered a half century full of significance, and she herself helped to give it meaning. She served her times with a rare "energy of human fellowship." Her service was unselfish and untiring; it had many activities, to which she generously gave of her leisure, her quiet and her strength, as well as of the powers of her mind. She was the wisest of counselors. It was no careless, conciliatory advice that she gave to you. She put her full mind at your service; she sought the truth for you eagerly, and inspired your entire trust in her loyalty and sincerity. She would have been a force in the world, no doubt, if no woman's college had existed; but her education went far to set free her power, and brought her into relations which used it for the highest good. One of these relations was with the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. It called upon some of her best gifts — her natural leadership, her instinct for order and organization, and her farseeing judgment.
Her attendance on committees was punctual, unfailing, absolutely to be relied on. Her service itself was beyond value. A subject brought to her consideration and discussed in her even, dispassionate voice, was viewed from all sides, with utter absence of prejudice or eccentricity, with perfect sanity and clarity. The drudgery as well as the honors of public service she accepted with unselfishness and humility.
Mrs. Backus was for several years the president of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. As a presiding officer, she combined dignity and gentleness. Her presence of mind, her self-command and her control of an assembly were not only evidence of her power of intellect, but of a great inward peace. The unruffled surface had deeps below. Her relation to younger officers of the association was charming — so helpful and heartening. Her loyalty and sympathy were enough, it seemed, to inspirit a small meeting, and her presence to lend it significance.
The intellectual stimulus derived from her in the association was that which she carried everywhere. Truly, her friendship made "daylight in the understanding." Happy were those who knew her still better; who passed beyond her reserve, and knew her heart as well as her intellect. None but the beautiful old Scripture word loving-kindness will express the inmost quality of her nature. Those who knew her reserved voice should have known it also in its depths of feeling. Those in sorrow touched a chord in her whose response was angelic.
Her large life was many sided; but she was best revealed in the tie of simple friendship. While many will remember with admiration her brilliant gifts and intellectual achievements, her friends will hold sacred a quiet memory of love and trust and kindness. From Representative of the Federation of Women's Clubs, Connecticut M. M. Abbott From Varsity Students n the Victorian Era 

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