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GIRLS WHO BECAME FAMOUS.
SARAH K. BOLTON,
AUTHOR OF “POOR BOYS WHO BECAME FAMOUS,” “SOCIAL STUDIES IN ENGLAND,” ETC.
“_Earth’s noblest thing, a woman perfected._” –JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.
“_Sow good services; sweet remembrances will grow from them_.” –MADAME DE STAEEL.
MRS. MARTHA W. MILLER,
Whose culture and kindness I count
among the blessings of
All of us have aspirations. We build air-castles, and are probably the happier for the building. However, the sooner we learn that life is not a play-day, but a thing of earnest activity, the better for us and for those associated with us. “Energy,” says Goethe, “will do anything that can be done in this world”; and Jean Ingelow truly says, that “Work is heaven’s hest.”
If we cannot, like George Eliot, write _Adam Bede_, we can, like Elizabeth Fry, visit the poor and the prisoner. If we cannot, like Rosa Bonheur, paint a “Horse Fair,” and receive ten thousand dollars, we can, like Mrs. Stowe and Miss Alcott, do some kind of work to lighten the burdens of parents. If poor, with Mary Lyon’s persistency and noble purpose, we can accomplish almost anything. If rich, like Baroness Burdett-Coutts, we can bless the world in thousands of ways, and are untrue to God and ourselves if we fail to do it.
Margaret Fuller said, “All might be superior beings,” and doubtless this is true, if all were willing to cultivate the mind and beautify the character.
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE Novelist
HELEN HUNT JACKSON Poet and Prose Writer
LUCRETIA MOTT Preacher
MARY A LIVERMORE Lecturer
MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI Journalist
MARIA MITCHELL Scientist
LOUISA M ALCOTT Author
MARY LYON Teacher
HARRIET G HOSMER Sculptor
MADAME DE STAEL Novelist and Political Writer
ROSA BONHEUR Artist
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING Poet
“GEORGE ELIOT” Novelist
ELIZABETH FRY Philanthropist
ELIZABETH THOMPSON BUTLER Painter
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE Hospital Nurse
LADY BRASSEY Traveller
BARONESS BURDETT-COUTTS Benefactor
JEAN INGELOW Poet
* * * * *
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.
[Illustration: HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.]
In a plain home, in the town of Litchfield, Conn., was born, June 14, 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The house was well-nigh full of little ones before her coming. She was the seventh child, while the oldest was but eleven years old.
Her father, Rev. Lyman Beecher, a man of remarkable mind and sunshiny heart, was preaching earnest sermons in his own and in all the neighboring towns, on the munificent salary of five hundred dollars a year. Her mother, Roxana Beecher, was a woman whose beautiful life has been an inspiration to thousands. With an education superior for those times, she came into the home of the young minister with a strength of mind and heart that made her his companion and reliance.
There were no carpets on the floors till the girl-wife laid down a piece of cotton cloth on the parlor, and painted it in oils, with a border and a bunch of roses and others flowers in the centre. When one of the good deacons came to visit them, the preacher said, “Walk in, deacon, walk in!”
“Why, I can’t,” said he, “‘thout steppin’ on’t.” Then he exclaimed, in admiration, “D’ye think ya can have all that, _and heaven too_?”
So meagre was the salary for the increasing household, that Roxana urged that a select school be started; and in this she taught French, drawing, painting, and embroidery, besides the higher English branches. With all this work she found time to make herself the idol of her children. While Henry Ward hung round her neck, she made dolls for little Harriet, and read to them from Walter Scott and Washington Irving.
These were enchanting days for the enthusiastic girl with brown curls and blue eyes. She roamed over the meadows, and through the forests, gathering wild flowers in the spring or nuts in the fall, being educated, as she afterwards said, “first and foremost by Nature, wonderful, beautiful, ever-changing as she is in that cloudland, Litchfield. There were the crisp apples of the pink azalea,–honeysuckle-apples, we called them; there were scarlet wintergreen berries; there were pink shell blossoms of trailing arbutus, and feathers of ground pine; there were blue and white and yellow violets, and crowsfoot, and bloodroot, and wild anemone, and other quaint forest treasures.”
A single incident, told by herself in later years, will show the frolic-loving spirit of the girl, and the gentleness of Roxana Beecher. “Mother was an enthusiastic horticulturist in all the small ways that limited means allowed. Her brother John, in New York, had just sent her a small parcel of fine tulip-bulbs. I remember rummaging these out of an obscure corner of the nursery one day when she was gone out, and being strongly seized with the idea that they were good to eat, and using all the little English I then possessed to persuade my brothers that these were onions, such as grown people ate, and would be very nice for us. So we fell to and devoured the whole; and I recollect being somewhat disappointed in the odd, sweetish taste, and thinking that onions were not as nice as I had supposed. Then mother’s serene face appeared at the nursery door, and we all ran toward her, and with one voice began to tell our discovery and achievement. We had found this bag of onions, and had eaten them all up.
“There was not even a momentary expression of impatience, but she sat down and said, ‘My dear children, what you have done makes mamma very sorry; those were not onion roots, but roots of beautiful flowers; and if you had let them alone, ma would have had next summer in the garden, great, beautiful red and yellow flowers, such as you never saw.’ I remember how drooping and disappointed we all grew at this picture, and how sadly we regarded the empty paper bag.”
When Harriet was five years old, a deep shadow fell upon the happy household. Eight little children were gathered round the bedside of the dying mother. When they cried and sobbed, she told them, with inexpressible sweetness, that “God could do more for them than she had ever done or could do, and that they must trust Him,” and urged her six sons to become ministers of the Gospel. When her heart-broken husband repeated to her the verse, “You are now come unto Mount Zion, unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant,” she looked up into his face with a beautiful smile, and closed her eyes forever. That smile Mr. Beecher never forgot to his dying day.
The whole family seemed crushed by the blow. Little Henry (now the great preacher), who had been told that his mother had been buried in the ground, and also that she had gone to heaven, was found one morning digging with all his might under his sister’s window, saying, “I’m going to heaven, to find ma!”
So much did Mr. Beecher miss her counsel and good judgment, that he sat down and wrote her a long letter, pouring out his whole soul, hoping somehow that she, his guardian angel, though dead, might see it. A year later he wrote a friend: “There is a sensation of loss which nothing alleviates–a solitude which no society interrupts. Amid the smiles and prattle of children, and the kindness of sympathizing friends, I am _alone; Roxana is not here_. She partakes in none of my joys, and bears with me none of my sorrows. I do not murmur; I only feel daily, constantly, and with deepening impression, how much I have had for which to be thankful, and how much I have lost…. The whole year after her death was a year of great emptiness, as if there was not motive enough in the world to move me. I used to pray earnestly to God either to take me away, or to restore to me that interest in things and susceptibility to motive I had had before.”
Once, when sleeping in the room where she died, he dreamed that Roxana came and stood beside him, and “smiled on me as with a smile from heaven. With that smile,” he said, “all my sorrow passed away. I awoke joyful, and I was lighthearted for weeks after.”
Harriet went to live for a time with her aunt and grandmother, and then came back to the lonesome home, into which Mr. Beecher had felt the necessity of bringing a new mother. She was a refined and excellent woman, and won the respect and affection of the family. At first Harriet, with a not unnatural feeling of injury, said to her: “Because you have come and married my father, when I am big enough, I mean to go and marry your father;” but she afterwards learned to love her very much.
At seven, with a remarkably retentive memory,–a thing which many of us spoil by trashy reading, or allowing our time and attention to be distracted by the trifles of every-day life,–Harriet had learned twenty-seven hymns and two long chapters of the Bible. She was exceedingly fond of reading, but there was little in a poor minister’s library to attract a child. She found _Bell’s Sermons_, and _Toplady on Predestination_. “Then,” she says, “there was a side closet full of documents, a weltering ocean of pamphlets, in which I dug and toiled for hours, to be repaid by disinterring a delicious morsel of a _Don Quixote_, that had once been a book, but was now lying in forty or fifty _dissecta membra_, amid Calls, Appeals, Essays, Reviews, and Rejoinders. The turning up of such a fragment seemed like the rising of an enchanted island out of an ocean of mud.” Finally _Ivanhoe_ was obtained, and she and her brother George read it through seven times.
At twelve, we find her in the school of Mr. John P. Brace, a well-known teacher, where she developed great fondness for composition. At the exhibition at the close of the year, it was the custom for all the parents to come and listen to the wonderful productions of their children. From the list of subjects given, Harriet had chosen, “Can the Immortality of the Soul be proved by the Light of Nature?”
“When mine was read,” she says, “I noticed that father brightened and looked interested. ‘Who wrote that composition?’ he asked of Mr. Brace. ‘_Your daughter, sir!_’ was the answer. There was no mistaking father’s face when he was pleased, and to have interested _him_ was past all juvenile triumphs.”
A new life was now to open to Harriet. Her only sister Catharine, a brilliant and noble girl, was engaged to Professor Fisher of Yale College. They were to be married on his return from a European tour, but alas! the _Albion_, on which he sailed, went to pieces on the rocks, and all on board, save one, perished. Her betrothed was never heard from. For months all hope seemed to go out of Catharine’s life, and then, with a strong will, she took up a course of mathematical study, _his_ favorite study, and Latin under her brother Edward. She was now twenty-three. Life was not to be along the pleasant paths she had hoped, but she must make it tell for the future.
With remarkable energy, she went to Hartford, Conn., where her brother was teaching, and thoroughly impressed with the belief that God had a work for her to do for girls, she raised several thousand dollars and built the Hartford Female Seminary. Her brothers had college doors opened to them; why, she reasoned, should not women have equal opportunities? Society wondered of what possible use Latin and moral philosophy could be to girls, but they admired Miss Beecher, and let her do as she pleased. Students poured in, and the seminary soon overflowed. My own school life in that beloved institution, years afterward, I shall never forget.
And now the little twelve-year-old Harriet came down from Litchfield to attend Catharine’s school, and soon become a pupil-teacher, that the burden of support might not fall too heavily upon the father. Other children had come into the Beecher home, and with a salary of eight hundred dollars, poverty could not be other than a constant attendant. Once when the family were greatly straitened for money, while Henry and Charles were in college, the new mother went to bed weeping, but the father said, “Well, the Lord always has taken care of me, and I am sure He always will,” and was soon fast asleep. The next morning, Sunday, a letter was handed in at the door, containing a $100 bill, and no name. It was a thank-offering for the conversion of a child.
Mr. Beecher, with all his poverty, could not help being generous. His wife, by close economy, had saved twenty-five dollars to buy a new overcoat for him. Handing him the roll of bills, he started out to purchase the garment, but stopped on the way to attend a missionary meeting. His heart warmed as he stayed, and when the contribution-box was passed, he put in the roll of bills for the Sandwich Islanders, and went home with his threadbare coat!
Three years later, Mr. Beecher, who had now become widely known as a revivalist and brilliant preacher, was called to Boston, where he remained for six years. His six sermons on intemperance had stirred the whole country.
Though he loved Boston, his heart often turned toward the great West, and he longed to help save her young men. When, therefore, he was asked to go to Ohio and become the president of Lane Theological Seminary at Cincinnati, he accepted. Singularly dependent upon his family, Catharine and Harriet must needs go with him to the new home. The journey was a toilsome one, over the corduroy roads and across the mountains by stagecoach. Finally they were settled in a pleasant house on Walnut Hills, one of the suburbs of the city, and the sisters opened another school.
Four years later, in 1836, Harriet, now twenty-five, married the professor of biblical criticism and Oriental literature in the seminary, Calvin E. Stowe, a learned and able man.
Meantime the question of slavery had been agitating the minds of Christian people. Cincinnati being near the border-line of Kentucky, was naturally the battle-ground of ideas. Slaves fled into the free State and were helped into Canada by means of the “Underground Railroad,” which was in reality only a friendly house about every ten miles, where the colored people could be secreted during the day, and then carried in wagons to the next “station” in the night.
Lane Seminary became a hot-bed of discussion. Many of the Southern students freed their slaves, or helped to establish schools for colored children in Cincinnati, and were disinherited by their fathers in consequence. Dr. Bailey, a Christian man who attempted to carry on a fair discussion of the question in his paper, had his presses broken twice and thrown into the river. The feeling became so intense, that the houses of free colored people were burned, some killed, and the seminary was in danger from the mob. The members of Professor Stowe’s family slept with firearms, ready to defend their lives. Finally the trustees of the college forbade all slavery discussion by the students, and as a result, nearly the whole body left the institution.
Dr. Beecher, meantime, was absent at the East, having raised a large sum of money for the seminary, and came back only to find his labor almost hopeless. For several years, however, he and his children stayed and worked on. Mrs. Stowe opened her house to colored children, whom she taught with her own. One bright boy in her school was claimed by an estate in Kentucky, arrested, and was to be sold at auction. The half-crazed mother appealed to Mrs. Stowe, who raised the needed money among her friends, and thus saved the lad.
Finally, worn out with the “irrepressible conflict,” the Beecher family, with the Stowes, came North in 1850, Mr. Stowe accepting a professorship at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. A few boarders were taken into the family to eke out the limited salary, and Mrs. Stowe earned a little from a sketch written now and then for the newspapers. She had even obtained a prize of fifty dollars for a New England story. Her six brothers had fulfilled their mother’s dying wish, and were all in the ministry. She was now forty years old, a devoted mother, with an infant; a hard-working teacher, with her hands full to overflowing. It seemed improbable that she would ever do other than this quiet, unceasing labor. Most women would have said, “I can do no more than I am doing. My way is hedged up to any outside work.”
But Mrs. Stowe’s heart burned for those in bondage. The Fugitive Slave Law was hunting colored people and sending them back into servitude and death. The people of the North seemed indifferent. Could she not arouse them by something she could write?
One Sunday, as she sat at the communion table in the little Brunswick church, the pattern of Uncle Tom formed itself in her mind, and, almost overcome by her feelings, she hastened home and wrote out the chapter on his death. When she had finished, she read it to her two sons, ten and twelve, who burst out sobbing, “Oh! mamma, slavery is the most cursed thing in the world.”
After two or three more chapters were ready, she wrote to Dr. Bailey, who had moved his paper from Cincinnati to Washington, offering the manuscript for the columns of the _National Era_, and it was accepted. Now the matter must be prepared each week. She visited Boston, and at the Anti-Slavery rooms borrowed several books to aid in furnishing facts. And then the story wrote itself out of her full heart and brain. When it neared completion, Mr. Jewett of Boston, through the influence of his wife, offered to become the publisher, but feared if the serial were much longer, it would be a failure. She wrote him that she could not stop till it was done.
_Uncle Tom’s Cabin_ was published March 20,1852. Then came the reaction in her own mind. Would anybody read this book? The subject was unpopular. It would indeed be a failure, she feared, but she would help the story make its way if possible. She sent a copy of the book to Prince Albert, knowing that both he and Queen Victoria were deeply interested in the subject; another copy to Macaulay, whose father was a friend of Wilberforce; one to Charles Dickens; and another to Charles Kingsley. And then the busy mother, wife, teacher, housekeeper, and author waited in her quiet Maine home to see what the busy world would say.
In ten days, ten thousand copies had been sold. Eight presses were run day and night to supply the demand. Thirty different editions appeared in London in six months. Six theatres in that great city were playing it at one time. Over three hundred thousand copies were sold in less than a year.
Letters poured in upon Mrs. Stowe from all parts of the world. Prince Albert sent his hearty thanks. Dickens said, “Your book is worthy of any head and any heart that ever inspired a book.” Kingsley wrote, “It is perfect.” The noble Earl of Shaftesbury wrote, “None but a Christian believer could have produced such a book as yours, which has absolutely startled the whole world…. I live in hope–God grant it may rise to faith!–that this system is drawing to a close. It seems as though our Lord had sent out this book as the messenger before His face to prepare His way before Him.” He wrote out an address of sympathy “From the women of England to the women of America,” to which were appended the signatures of 562,448 women. These were in twenty-six folio volumes, bound in morocco, with the American eagle on the back of each, the whole in a solid oak case, sent to the care of Mrs. Stowe.
The learned reviews gave long notices of _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_. _Blackwood_ said, “There are scenes and touches in this book which no living writer that we know can surpass, and perhaps none can equal.” George Eliot wrote her beautiful letters.
How the heart of Lyman Beecher must have been gladdened by this wonderful success of his daughter! How Roxana Beecher must have looked down from heaven, and smiled that never-to-be-forgotten smile! How Harriet Beecher Stowe herself must have thanked God for this unexpected fulness of blessing! Thousands of dollars were soon paid to her as her share of the profits from the sale of the book. How restful it must have seemed to the tired, over-worked woman, to have more than enough for daily needs!
The following year, 1853, Professor Stowe and his now famous wife decided to cross the ocean for needed rest. What was their astonishment, to be welcomed by immense public meetings in Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee; indeed, in every city which they visited. People in the towns stopped her carriage, to fill it with flowers. Boys ran along the streets, shouting, “That’s her–see the _courls!_” A penny offering was made her, given by people of all ranks, consisting of one thousand golden sovereigns on a beautiful silver salver. When the committee having the matter in charge visited one little cottage, they found only a blind woman, and said, “She will feel no interest, as she cannot read the book.”
“Indeed,” said the old lady, “if I cannot read, my son has read it to me, and I’ve got my penny saved to give.”
The beautiful Duchess of Sutherland entertained Mrs. Stowe at her house, where she met Lord Palmerston, the Duke of Argyle, Macaulay, Gladstone, and others. The duchess gave her a solid gold bracelet in the form of a slave’s shackle, with the words, “We trust it is a memorial of a chain that is soon to be broken.” On one link was the date of the abolition of the slave trade, March 25, 1807, and of slavery in the English territories, Aug. 1, 1834. On the other links are now engraved the dates of Emancipation in the District of Columbia; President Lincoln’s proclamation abolishing slavery in the States in rebellion, Jan. 1, 1863; and finally, on the clasp, the date of the Constitutional amendment, abolishing slavery forever in the United States. Only a decade after _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_ was written, and nearly all this accomplished! Who could have believed it possible?
On Mrs. Stowe’s return from Europe, she wrote _Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands_, which had a large sale. Her husband was now appointed to the professorship of sacred literature in the Theological Seminary at Andover, Mass., and here they made their home. The students found in her a warm-hearted friend, and an inspiration to intellectual work. Other books followed from her pen: _Dred_, a powerful anti-slavery story; _The Minister’s Wooing_, with lovely Mary Scudder as its heroine; _Agnes of Sorrento_, an Italian story; the _Pearl of Orr’s Island_, a tale of the New England coast; _Old Town Folks; House and Home Papers; My Wife and I; Pink and White Tyranny_; and some others, all of which have been widely read.
The sale of _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_ has not ceased. It is estimated that over one and a half million copies have been sold in Great Britain and her colonies, and probably an equal or greater number in this country. There have been twelve French editions, eleven German, and six Spanish. It has been published in nineteen different languages,–Russian, Hungarian, Armenian, Modern Greek, Finnish, Welsh, Polish, and others. In Bengal the book is very popular. A lady of high rank in the court of Siam, liberated her slaves, one hundred and thirty in number, after reading this book, and said, “I am wishful to be good like Harriet Beecher Stowe, and never again to buy human bodies, but only to let them go free once more.” In France the sale of the Bible was increased because the people wished to read the book Uncle Tom loved so much.
_Uncle Tom’s Cabin_, like _Les Miserables_, and a few other novels, will live, because written with a purpose. No work of fiction is permanent without some great underlying principle or object.
Soon after the Civil War, Mrs. Stowe bought a home among the orange groves of Florida, and thither she goes each winter, with her family. She has done much there for the colored people whom she helped to make free. With the proceeds of some public readings at the North she built a church, in which her husband preached as long as his health permitted. Her home at Mandarin, with its great moss-covered oaks and profusion of flowers, is a restful and happy place after these most fruitful years.
Her summer residence in Hartford, Conn., beautiful without, and artistic within, has been visited by thousands, who honor the noble woman not less than the gifted author.
Many of the Beecher family have died; Lyman Beecher at eighty-three, and Catharine at seventy-eight. Some of Mrs. Stowe’s own children are waiting for her in the other country. She says, “I am more interested in the other side of Jordan than this, though this still has its pleasures.”
On Mrs. Stowe’s seventy-first birthday, her publishers, Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., gave a garden party in her honor, at the hospitable home of Governor Claflin and his wife, at Newton, Mass. Poets and artists, statesmen and reformers, were invited to meet the famous author. On a stage, under a great tent, she sat, while poems were read and speeches made. The brown curls had become snowy white, and the bright eyes of girlhood had grown deeper and more earnest. The manner was the same as ever, unostentatious, courteous, kindly.
Her life is but another confirmation of the well-known fact, that the best work of the world is done, not by the loiterers, but by those whose hearts and hands are full of duties. Mrs. Stowe died about noon, July 1, 1896, of paralysis, at Hartford, Conn., at the age of eighty-five. She passed away as if to sleep, her son, the Rev. Charles Edward Stowe, and her daughters, Eliza and Harriet, standing by her bedside. Since the death of her husband, Professor Calvin E. Stowe, in 1886, Mrs. Stowe had gradually failed physically and mentally. She was buried July 3 in the cemetery connected with the Theological Seminary at Andover, Mass., between the graves of her husband and her son, Henry. The latter was drowned in the Connecticut River, while a member of Dartmouth College, July 19, 1857.
HELEN HUNT JACKSON.
[Illustration: HELEN HUNT JACKSON.]
Thousands were saddened when, Aug. 12, 1885, it was flashed across the wires that Helen Hunt Jackson was dead. The _Nation_ said, “The news will probably carry a pang of regret into more American homes than similar intelligence in regard to any other woman, with the possible exception of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe.”
How, with the simple initials, “H.H.,” had she won this place in the hearts of the people? Was it because she was a poet? Oh no! many persons of genius have few friends. It was because an earnest life was back of her gifted writings. A great book needs a great man or woman behind it to make it a perfect work. Mrs. Jackson’s literary work will be abiding, but her life, with its dark shadow and bright sunlight, its deep affections and sympathy with the oppressed, will furnish a rich setting for the gems of thought which she gave to the world.
Born in the cultured town of Amherst, Mass., Oct. 18, 1831, she inherited from her mother a sunny, buoyant nature, and from her father, Nathan W. Fiske, professor of languages and philosophy in the college, a strong and vigorous mind. Her own vivid description of the “naughtiest day in my life,” in _St. Nicholas_, September and October, 1880, shows the ardent, wilful child who was one day to stand out fearlessly before the nation and tell its statesmen the wrong they had done to “her Indians.”
She and her younger sister Annie were allowed one April day, by their mother, to go into the woods just before school hours, to gather checkerberries. Helen, finding the woods very pleasant, determined to spend the day in them, even though sure she would receive a whipping on her return home. The sister could not be coaxed to do wrong, but a neighbor’s child, with the promise of seeing live snails with horns, was induced to accompany the truant. They wandered from one forest to another, till hunger compelled them to seek food at a stranger’s home. The kind farmer and his wife were going to a funeral, and wished to lock their house; but they took pity on the little ones, and gave them some bread and milk. “There,” said the woman, “now, you just make yourselves comfortable, and eat all you can; and when you’re done, you push the bowls in among them lilac-bushes, and nobody’ll get ’em.”
Urged on by Helen, she and her companion wandered into the village, to ascertain where the funeral was to be held. It was in the meeting-house, and thither they went, and seated themselves on the bier outside the door. Becoming tired of this, they trudged on. One of them lost her shoe in the mud, and stopping at a house to dry their stockings, they were captured by two Amherst professors, who had come over to Hadley to attend the funeral. The children had walked four miles, and nearly the whole town, with the frightened mother, were in search of the runaways. Helen, greatly displeased at being caught, jumped out of the carriage, but was soon retaken. At ten o’clock at night they reached home, and the child walked in as rosy and smiling as possible, saying, “Oh, mother! I’ve had a perfectly splendid time!”
A few days passed, and then her father sent for her to come into his study, and told her because she had not said she was sorry for running away, she must go into the garret, and wait till he came to see her. Sullen at this punishment, she took a nail and began to bore holes in the plastering. This so angered the professor, that he gave her a severe whipping, and kept her in the garret for a week. It is questionable whether she was more penitent at the end of the week than she was at the beginning.
When Helen was twelve, both father and mother died, leaving her to the care of a grandfather. She was soon placed in the school of the author, Rev. J.S.C. Abbott, of New York, and here some of her happiest days were passed. She grew to womanhood, frank, merry, impulsive, brilliant in conversation, and fond of society.
At twenty-one she was married to a young army officer, Captain, afterward Major, Edward B. Hunt, whom his friends called “Cupid” Hunt from his beauty and his curling hair. He was a brother of Governor Hunt of New York, an engineer of high rank, and a man of fine scientific attainments. They lived much of their time at West Point and Newport, and the young wife moved in a fashionable social circle, and won hosts of admiring friends. Now and then, when he read a paper before some learned society, he was proud to take his vivacious and attractive wife with him.
Their first baby died when he was eleven months old, but another beautiful boy came to take his place, named after two friends, Warren Horsford, but familiarly called “Rennie.” He was an uncommonly bright child, and Mrs. Hunt was passionately fond and proud of him. Life seemed full of pleasures. She dressed handsomely, and no wish of her heart seemed ungratified.
Suddenly, like a thunder-bolt from a clear sky, the happy life was shattered. Major Hunt was killed Oct. 2, 1863, while experimenting in Brooklyn, with a submarine gun of his own invention. The young widow still had her eight-year-old boy, and to him she clung more tenderly than ever, but in less than two years she stood by his dying bed. Seeing the agony of his mother, and forgetting his own even in that dread destroyer, diphtheria, he said, almost at the last moment, “Promise me, mamma, that you will not kill yourself.”
She promised, and exacted from him also a pledge that if it were possible, he would come back from the other world to talk with his mother. He never came, and Mrs. Hunt could have no faith in spiritualism, because what Rennie could not do, she believed to be impossible.
For months she shut herself into her own room, refusing to see her nearest friends. “Any one who really loves me ought to pray that I may die, too, like Rennie,” she said. Her physician thought she would die of grief; but when her strong, earnest nature had wrestled with itself and come off conqueror, she came out of her seclusion, cheerful as of old. The pictures of her husband and boy were ever beside her, and these doubtless spurred her on to the work she was to accomplish.
Three months after Rennie’s death, her first poem, _Lifted Over_, appeared in the _Nation_:–
“As tender mothers, guiding baby steps, When places come at which the tiny feet Would trip, lift up the little ones in arms Of love, and set them down beyond the harm, So did our Father watch the precious boy, Led o’er the stones by me, who stumbled oft Myself, but strove to help my darling on: He saw the sweet limbs faltering, and saw Rough ways before us, where my arms would fail; So reached from heaven, and lifting the dear child, Who smiled in leaving me, He put him down Beyond all hurt, beyond my sight, and bade Him wait for me! Shall I not then be glad, And, thanking God, press on to overtake!”
The poem was widely copied, and many mothers were comforted by it. The kind letters she received in consequence were the first gleam of sunshine in the darkened life. If she were doing even a little good, she could live and be strong.
And then began, at thirty-four, absorbing, painstaking literary work. She studied the best models of composition. She said to a friend, years after, “Have you ever tested the advantages of an analytical reading of some writer of finished style? There is a little book called _Out-Door Papers_, by Wentworth Higginson, that is one of the most perfect specimens of literary composition in the English language. It has been my model for years. I go to it as a text-book, and have actually spent hours at a time, taking one sentence after another, and experimenting upon them, trying to see if I could take out a word or transpose a clause, and not destroy their perfection.” And again, “I shall never write a sentence, so long as I live, without studying it over from the standpoint of whether you would think it could be bettered.”
Her first prose sketch, a walk up Mt. Washington from the Glen House, appeared in the _Independent_, Sept. 13, 1866; and from this time she wrote for that able journal three hundred and seventy-one articles. She worked rapidly, writing usually with a lead-pencil, on large sheets of yellow paper, but she pruned carefully. Her first poem in the _Atlantic Monthly_, entitled _Coronation_, delicate and full of meaning, appeared in 1869, being taken to Mr. Fields, the editor, by a friend.
At this time she spent a year abroad, principally in Germany and Italy, writing home several sketches. In Rome she became so ill that her life was despaired of. When she was partially recovered and went away to regain her strength, her friends insisted that a professional nurse should go with her; but she took a hard-working young Italian girl of sixteen, to whom this vacation would be a blessing.
On her return, in 1870, a little book of _Verses_ was published. Like most beginners, she was obliged to pay for the stereotyped plates. The book was well received. Emerson liked especially her sonnet, _Thought_. He ranked her poetry above that of all American women, and most American men. Some persons praised the “exquisite musical structure” of the _Gondolieds_, and others read and re-read her beautiful _Down to Sleep_. But the world’s favorite was _Spinning_:–
“Like a blind spinner in the sun,
I tread my days;
I know that all the threads will run Appointed ways;
I know each day will bring its task, And, being blind, no more I ask.
* * * * *
“But listen, listen, day by day,
To hear their tread
Who bear the finished web away,
And cut the thread,
And bring God’s message in the sun, ‘Thou poor blind spinner, work is done.”
After this came two other small books, _Bits of Travel_ and _Bits of Talk about Home Matters_. She paid for the plates of the former. Fame did not burst upon Helen Hunt; it came after years of work, after it had been fully earned. The road to authorship is a hard one, and only those should attempt it who have courage and perseverance.
Again her health failed, but not her cheerful spirits. She travelled to Colorado, and wrote a book in praise of it. Everywhere she made lasting friends. Her German landlady in Munich thought her the kindest person in the world. The newsboy, the little urchin on the street with a basket full of wares, the guides over the mountain passes, all remembered her cheery voice and helpful words. She used to say, “She is only half mother who does not see her own child in every child. Oh, if the world could only stop long enough for one generation of mothers to be made all right, what a Millennium could be begun in thirty years!” Some one, in her childhood, called her a “stupid child” before strangers, and she never forgot the sting of it.
In Colorado, in 1876, eleven years after the death of Major Hunt, she married Mr. William Sharpless Jackson, a Quaker and a cultured banker. Her home, at Colorado Springs, became an ideal one, sheltered under the great Manitou, and looking toward the Garden of the Gods, full of books and magazines, of dainty rugs and dainty china gathered from many countries, and richly colored Colorado flowers. Once, when Eastern guests were invited to luncheon, twenty-three varieties of wildflowers, each massed in its own color, adorned the home. A friend of hers says: “There is not an artificial flower in the house, on embroidered table-cover or sofa cushion or tidy; indeed, Mrs. Jackson holds that the manufacture of silken poppies and crewel sun-flowers is a ‘respectable industry,’ intended only to keep idle hands out of mischief.”
Mrs. Jackson loved flowers almost as though they were children. She writes: “I bore on this June day a sheaf of the white columbine,–one single sheaf, one single root; but it was almost more than I could carry. In the open spaces, I carried it on my shoulder; in the thickets, I bore it carefully in my arms, like a baby…. There is a part of Cheyenne Mountain which I and one other have come to call ‘our garden.’ When we drive down from ‘our garden,’ there is seldom room for another flower in our carriage. The top thrown back is filled, the space in front of the driver is filled, and our laps and baskets are filled with the more delicate blossoms. We look as if we were on our way to the ceremonies of Decoration Day. So we are. All June days are decoration days in Colorado Springs, but it is the sacred joy of life that we decorate,–not the sacred sadness of death.” But Mrs. Jackson, with her pleasant home, could not rest from her work. Two novels came from her pen, _Mercy Philbrick’s Choice_ and _Hetty’s Strange History_. It is probable also that she helped to write the beautiful and tender _Saxe Holm Stories_. It is said that _Draxy Miller’s Dowry_ and _Esther Wynn’s Love Letters_ were written by another, while Mrs. Jackson added the lovely poems; and when a request was made by the publishers for more stories from the same author, Mrs. Jackson was prevailed upon to write them.
The time had now come for her to do her last and perhaps her best work. She could not write without a definite purpose, and now the purpose that settled down upon her heart was to help the defrauded Indians. She believed they needed education and Christianization rather than extermination. She left her home and spent three months in the Astor Library of New York, writing her _Century of Dishonor_, showing how we have despoiled the Indians and broken our treaties with them. She wrote to a friend, “I cannot think of anything else from night to morning and from morning to night.” So untiringly did she work that she made herself ill, and was obliged to go to Norway, leaving a literary ally to correct the proofs of her book.
At her own expense, she sent a copy to each member of Congress. Its plain facts were not relished in some quarters, and she began to taste the cup that all reformers have to drink; but the brave woman never flinched in her duty. So much was the Government impressed by her earnestness and good judgment, that she was appointed a Special Commissioner with her friend, Abbott Kinney, to examine and report on the condition of the Mission Indians in California.
Could an accomplished, tenderly reared woman go into their _adobe_ villages and listen to their wrongs? What would the world say of its poet? Mrs. Jackson did not ask; she had a mission to perform, and the more culture, the more responsibility. She brought cheer and hope to the red men and their wives, and they called her “the Queen.” She wrote able articles about them in the _Century_.
The report made by Mr. Kinney and herself, which she prepared largely, was clear and convincing. How different all this from her early life! Mrs. Jackson had become more than poet and novelist; even the leader of an oppressed people. At once, in the winter of 1883, she began to write her wonderfully graphic and tender _Ramona_, and into this, she said, “I put my heart and soul.” The book was immediately reprinted in England, and has had great popularity. She meant to do for the Indian what Mrs. Stowe did for the slave, and she lived long enough to see the great work well in progress.
This true missionary work had greatly deepened the earnestness of the brilliant woman. Not always tender to other peoples’ “hobbies,” as she said, she now had one of her own, into which she was putting her life. Her horizon, with her great intellectual gifts, had now become as wide as the universe. Had she lived, how many more great questions she would have touched.
In June, 1884, falling on the staircase of her Colorado home, she severely fractured her leg, and was confined to the house for several months. Then she was taken to Los Angeles, Cal., for the winter. The broken limb mended rapidly, but malarial fever set in, and she was carried to San Francisco. Her first remark was, as she entered the house looking out upon the broad and lovely bay, “I did not imagine it was so pleasant! What a beautiful place to die in!”
To the last her letters to her friends were full of cheer. “You must not think because I speak of not getting well that I am sad over it,” she wrote. “On the contrary, I am more and more relieved in my mind, as it seems to grow more and more sure that I shall die. You see that I am growing old” (she was but fifty-four), “and I do believe that my work is done. You have never realized how, for the past five years, my whole soul has been centered on the Indian question. _Ramona_ was the outcome of those five years. The Indian cause is on its feet now; powerful friends are at work.”
To another she wrote, “I am heartily, honestly, and cheerfully ready to go. In fact, I am glad to go. My _Century of Dishonor_ and _Ramona_ are the only things I have done of which I am glad now. The rest is of no moment. They will live, and they will bear fruit. They already have. The change in public feeling on the Indian question in the last three years is marvellous; an Indian Rights Association in every large city in the land.”
She had no fear of death. She said, “It is only just passing from one country to another…. My only regret is that I have not accomplished more work; especially that it was so late in the day when I began to work in real earnest. But I do not doubt we shall keep on working…. There isn’t so much difference, I fancy, between this life and the next as we think, nor so much barrier…. I shall look in upon you in the new rooms some day; but you will not see me. Good-bye. Yours affectionately forever, H.H.” Four days before her death she wrote to President Cleveland:–
“From my death-bed I send you a message of heart-felt thanks for what you have already done for the Indians. I ask you to read my _Century of Dishonor_. I am dying happier for the belief I have that it is your hand that is destined to strike the first steady blow toward lifting this burden of infamy from our country, and righting the wrongs of the Indian race.
“With respect and gratitude,
That same day she wrote her last touching poem:–
“Father, I scarcely dare to pray,
So clear I see, now it is done,
That I have wasted half my day,
And left my work but just begun;
“So clear I see that things I thought Were right or harmless were a sin;
So clear I see that I have sought, Unconscious, selfish aim to win
“So clear I see that I have hurt
The souls I might hare helped to save, That I have slothful been, inert,
Deaf to the calls Thy leaders gave.
“In outskirts of Thy kingdoms vast,
Father, the humblest spot give me; Set me the lowliest task Thou hast,
Let me repentant work for Thee!”
That evening, Aug. 8, after saying farewell, she placed her hand in her husband’s, and went to sleep. After four days, mostly unconscious ones, she wakened in eternity.
On her coffin were laid a few simple clover-blossoms, flowers she loved in life; and then, near the summit of Cheyenne Mountain, four miles from Colorado Springs, in a spot of her own choosing, she was buried.
“Do not adorn with costly shrub or tree Or flower the little grave which shelters me. Let the wild wind-sown seeds grow up unharmed, And back and forth all summer, unalarmed, Let all the tiny, busy creatures creep; Let the sweet grass its last year’s tangles keep; And when, remembering me, you come some day And stand there, speak no praise, but only say, ‘How she loved us! It was for that she was so dear.’ These are the only words that I shall smile to hear.”
Many will stand by that Colorado grave in the years to come. Says a California friend: “Above the chirp of the balm-cricket in the grass that hides her grave, I seem to hear sweet songs of welcome from the little ones. Among other thoughts of her come visions of a child and mother straying in fields of light. And so I cannot make her dead, who lived so earnestly, who wrought so unselfishly, and passed so trustfully into the mystery of the unseen.”
All honor to a woman who, with a happy home, was willing to leave it to make other homes happy; who, having suffered, tried with a sympathetic heart to forget herself and keep others from suffering; who, being famous, gladly took time to help unknown authors to win fame; who, having means, preferred a life of labor to a life of ease.
Mrs. Jackson’s work is still going forward. Five editions of her _Century of Dishonor_ have been printed since her death. _Ramona_ is in its thirtieth thousand. _Zeph_, a touching story of frontier life in Colorado, which she finished in her last illness, has been published. Her sketches of travel have been gathered into _Glimpses of Three Coasts_, and a new volume of poems, _Sonnets and Lyrics_, has appeared.
[Illustration: Lucretia Mott.]
Years ago I attended, at some inconvenience, a large public meeting, because I heard that Lucretia Mott was to speak. After several addresses, a slight lady, with white cap and drab Quaker dress, came forward. Though well in years, her eyes were bright; her smile was winsome, and I thought her face one of the loveliest I had ever looked upon. The voice was singularly sweet and clear, and the manner had such naturalness and grace as a queen might envy. I have forgotten the words, forgotten even the subject, but the benign presence and gracious smile I shall never forget.
Born among the quiet scenes of Nantucket, Jan. 3, 1793, Lucretia grew to girlhood with habits of economy, neatness, and helpfulness in the home. Her father, Thomas Coffin, was a sea-captain of staunch principle; her mother, a woman of great energy, wit, and good sense. The children’s pleasures were such as a plain country home afforded. When Mrs. Coffin went to visit her neighbors, she would say to her daughters, “Now after you have finished knitting twenty bouts, you may go down cellar and pick out as many as you want of the smallest potatoes,–the very smallest,–and roast them in the ashes.” Then the six little folks gathered about the big fireplace and enjoyed a frolic.
When Lucretia was twelve years old, the family moved to Boston. At first all the children attended a private school; but Captain Coffin, fearing this would make them proud, removed them to a public school, where they could “mingle with all classes without distinction.” Years after Lucretia said, “I am glad, because it gave me a feeling of sympathy for the patient and struggling poor, which, but for this experience, I might never have known.”
A year later, she was sent to a Friends’ boarding-school at Nine Partners, N.Y. Both boys and girls attended this school, but were not permitted to speak to each other unless they were near relatives; if so, they could talk a little on certain days over a certain corner of the fence, between the playgrounds! Such grave precautions did not entirely prevent the acquaintance of the young people; for when a lad was shut up in a closet, on bread and water, Lucretia and her sister supplied him with bread and butter under the door. This boy was a cousin of the teacher, James Mott, who was fond of the quick-witted school-girl, so that it is probable that no harm came to her from breaking the rules.
At fifteen, Lucretia was appointed an assistant teacher, and she and Mr. Mott, with a desire to know more of literature, and quite possibly more of each other, began to study French together. He was tall, with light hair and blue eyes, and shy in manner; she, petite, with dark hair and eyes, quick in thought and action, and fond of mirth. When she was eighteen and James twenty-one, the young teachers were married, and both went to her father’s home in Philadelphia to reside, he assisting in Mr. Coffin’s business.
The war of 1812 brought financial failure to many, and young Mott soon found himself with a wife and infant daughter to support, and no work. Hoping that he could obtain a situation with an uncle in New York State, he took his family thither, but came back disappointed. Finally he found work in a plow store at a salary of six hundred dollars a year.
Captain Coffin meantime had died, leaving his family poor. James could do so little for them all with his limited salary, that he determined to open a small store; but the experiment proved a failure. His health began to be affected by this ill success, when Lucretia, with her brave heart, said, “My cousin and I will open a school; thee must not get discouraged, James.”
The school was opened with four pupils, each paying seven dollars a quarter. The young wife put so much good cheer and earnestness into her work, that soon there were forty pupils in the school. Mr. Mott’s prospects now brightened, for he was earning one thousand dollars a year. The young couple were happy in their hard work, for they loved each other, and love lightens all care and labor.
But soon a sorrow worse than poverty came. Their only son, Thomas, a most affectionate child, died, saying with his latest breath, “I love thee, mother.” It was a crushing blow; but it proved a blessing in the end, leading her thoughts heavenward.
A few months afterwards her voice was heard for the first time in public, in prayer, in one of the Friends’ meetings. The words were simple, earnest, eloquent. The good Quakers marvelled, and encouraged the “gift.” They did not ask whether man or woman brought the message, so it came from heaven.
And now, at twenty-five, having resigned her position as teacher, she began close study of the Bible and theological books. She had four children to care for, did all her sewing, even cutting and making her own dresses; but she learned what every one can learn,–to economize time. Her house was kept scrupulously clean. She says: “I omitted much unnecessary stitching and ornamental work in the sewing for my family, so that I might have more time for the improvement of my mind. For novels and light reading I never had much taste; the ladies’ department in the periodicals of the day had no attraction for me. “She would lay a copy of William Penn’s ponderous volumes open at the foot of her bed, and drawing her chair close to it, with her baby on her lap, would study the book diligently. A woman of less energy and less will-power than young Mrs. Mott would have given up all hope of being a scholar. She read the best books in philosophy and science. John Stuart Mill and Dean Stanley, though widely different, were among her favorite authors.
James Mott was now prospering in the cotton business, so that they could spare time to go in their carriage and speak at the Quaker meetings in the surrounding country. Lucretia would be so absorbed in thought as not to notice the beauties of the landscape, which her husband always greatly enjoyed. Pointing out a fine view to her, she replied, “Yes, it is beautiful, now that thou points it out, but I should not have noticed it. I have always taken more interest in _human_ nature.” From a child she was deeply interested for the slave. She had read in her school-books Clarkson’s description of the slave ships, and these left an impression never to be effaced. When, Dec. 4, 1833, a convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of forming the American Anti-Slavery Society, Lucretia Mott was one of the four women who braved the social obloquy, as friends of the despised abolitionists. She spoke, and was listened to with attention. Immediately the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society was formed, and Mrs. Mott became its president and its inspiration. So unheard of a thing was an association of women, and so unaccustomed were they to the methods of organization, that they were obliged to call a colored man to the chair to assist them.
The years of martyrdom which followed, we at this day can scarcely realize. Anti-slavery lecturers were tarred and feathered. Mobs in New York and Philadelphia swarmed the streets, burning houses and breaking church windows. In the latter city they surrounded the hall of the Abolitionists, where the women were holding a large convention, and Mrs. Mott was addressing them. All day long they cursed and threw stones, and as soon as the women left the building, they burned it to ashes. Then, wrought up to fury, the mob started for the house of James and Lucretia Mott. Knowing that they were coming, the calm woman sent her little children away, and then in the parlor, with a few friends, peacefully awaited a probable death.
In the turbulent throng was a young man who, while he was no friend of the colored man, could not see Lucretia Mott harmed. With skilful ruse, as they neared the house, he rushed up another street, shouting at the top of his voice, “On to Motts!” and the wild crowd blindly followed, wreaking their vengeance in another quarter.
A year later, in Delaware, where Mrs. Mott was speaking, one of her party, a defenceless old man, was dragged from the house, and tarred and feathered. She followed, begging the men to desist, and saying that she was the real offender, but no violent hands were laid upon her.
At another time, when the annual meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in New York was broken up by the mob, some of the speakers were roughly handled. Perceiving that several ladies were timid, Mrs. Mott said to the gentleman who was accompanying her, “Won’t thee look after some of the others?”
“But who will take care of you?” he said.
With great tact and a sweet smile, she answered, “This man,” laying her hand on the arm of one of the roughest of the mob; “he will see me safe through.”
The astonished man had, like others, a tender heart beneath the roughness, and with respectful manner took her to a place of safety. The next day, going into a restaurant, she saw the leader of the mob, and immediately sat down by him, and began to converse. Her kindness and her sweet voice left a deep impression. As he went out of the room, he asked at the door, “Who is that lady?”
“Why, that is Lucretia Mott!”
For a second he was dumbfounded; but he added, “Well, she’s a good, sensible woman.”
In 1839 a World’s Convention was called at London to debate the slavery question. Among the delegates chosen were James and Lucretia Mott, Wendell Phillips and his wife, and others. Mrs. Mott was jubilant at the thought of the world’s interest in this great question, and glad for an opportunity to cross the ocean and enjoy a little rest, and the pleasure of meeting friends who had worked in the same cause.
When the party arrived, they were told, to their astonishment, that no women were to be admitted to the Convention as delegates. They had faced mobs and ostracism; they had given money and earnest labor, but they were to be ignored. William Lloyd Garrison, hurt at such injustice, refused to take part in the Convention, and sat in the gallery with the women. Although Mrs. Mott did not speak in the assembly, the _Dublin Herald_ said, “Nobody doubts that she was the lioness of the Convention.” She was entertained at public breakfasts, and at these spoke with the greatest acceptance to both men and women. The Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Byron showed her great attention. Carlyle was “much pleased with the Quaker lady, whose quiet manner had a soothing effect on him,” wrote Mrs. Carlyle to a friend. At Glasgow “she held a delighted audience for nearly two hours in breathless attention,” said the press.
After some months of devoted Christian work, along with sight-seeing, Mr. and Mrs. Mott started homeward. He had spoken less frequently than his wife, but always had been listened to with deep interest. Her heart was moved toward a large number of Irish emigrants in the steerage, and she desired to hold a religious meeting among them. When asked about it, they said they would not hear a woman preacher, for women priests were not allowed in their church. Then she asked that they would come together and consider whether they would have a meeting. This seemed fair, and they came. She explained to them that she did not intend to hold a church service; that, as they were leaving their old homes and seeking new ones in her country, she wanted to talk with them in such a way as would help them in the land of strangers. And then, if they would listen,–they were all the time listening very eagerly,–she would give an outline of what she had intended to say, if the meeting had been held. At the close, when all had departed, it dawned upon some of the quicker-witted ones that they “had got the preachment from the woman preacher, after all.”
The steamer arrived at the close of a twenty-nine days’ voyage, and, after a brief rest, Mrs. Mott began again her public work. She spoke before the legislatures of New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. She called on President Tyler, and he talked with her cordially and freely about the slave. In Kentucky, says one of the leading papers, “For an hour and a half she enchained an ordinarily restless audience–many were standing–to a degree never surpassed here by the most popular orators. She said some things that were far from palatable, but said them with an air of sincerity that commanded respect and attention.”
Mrs. Mott was deeply interested in other questions besides slavery,–suffrage for women, total abstinence, and national differences settled by arbitration instead of war. Years before, when she began to teach school, and found that while girls paid the same tuition as boys, “when they became teachers, women received only half as much as men for their services,” she says: “The injustice of this distinction was so apparent, that I early resolved to claim for myself all that an impartial Creator had bestowed.”
In 1848, Mrs. Mott, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and some others, called the first Woman’s Suffrage Convention in this country, at Seneca Falls, N.Y. There was much ridicule,–we had not learned, forty years ago, to treat with courtesy those whose opinions are different from our own,–but the sweet Quaker preacher went serenely forward, as though all the world were on her side. When she conversed with those who differed, she listened so courteously to objections, and stated her own views so delicately and kindly, and often so wittily, that none could help liking her, even though they did not agree with her. She realized that few can be driven, while many can be won with gentleness and tact.
In all these years of public speaking, her home was not only a refuge for the oppressed, but a delightful social centre, where prominent people gathered from both Europe and America. At the table black and white were treated with equal courtesy. One young man, a frequent visitor, finding himself seated at dinner next to a colored man, resolved to keep away from the house in future; but as he was in love with one of Mrs. Mott’s pretty daughters, he found that his “principles” gave way to his affections. He renewed his visits, became a son-in-law, and, later, an ardent advocate of equality for the colored people.
Now the guests at the hospitable home were a mother and seven children, from England, who, meeting with disappointments, had become reduced to poverty. Now it was an escaped slave, who had come from Richmond, Va., in a dry-goods box, by Adams Express. This poor man, whose wife and three children had been sold from him, determined to seek his freedom, even if he died in the effort. Weighing nearly two hundred pounds, he was encased in a box two feet long, twenty-three inches wide, and three feet high, in a sitting posture. He was provided with a few crackers, and a bladder filled with water. With a small gimlet he bored holes in the box to let in fresh air, and fanned himself with his hat, to keep the air in motion. The box was covered with canvas, that no one might suspect its contents. His sufferings were almost unbearable. As the box was tossed from one place to another, he was badly bruised, and sometimes he rested for miles on his head and shoulders, when it seemed as though his veins would burst. Finally he reached the Mott home, and found shelter and comfort.
Their large house was always full. Mr. Mott had given up a prosperous cotton business, because the cotton was the product of slave labor; but he had been equally successful in the wool trade, so that the days of privation had passed by long ago. Two of their six children, with their families, lived at home, and the harmony was remarked by everybody. Mrs. Mott rose early, and did much housework herself. She wrote to a friend: “I prepared mince for forty pies, doing every part myself, even to meat-chopping; picked over lots of apples, stewed a quantity, chopped some more, and made apple pudding; all of which kept me on my feet till almost two o’clock, having to come into the parlor every now and then to receive guests.” As a rule, those women are the best housekeepers whose lives are varied by some outside interests.
In the broad hall of the house stood two armchairs, which the children called “beggars’ chairs,” because they were in constant use for all sorts of people, “waiting to see the missus.” She never refused to see anybody. When letters came from all over the country, asking for all sorts of favors, bedding, silver spoons, a silk umbrella, or begging her to invest some money in the manufacture of an article, warranted “to take the kink out of the hair of the negro,” she would always check the merriment of her family by saying, “Don’t laugh too much; the poor souls meant well.”
Mrs. Mott was now sixty-three years of age. For forty years she had been seen and loved by thousands. Strangers would stop her on the street and say, “God bless you, Lucretia Mott!” Once, when a slave was being tried for running away, Mrs. Mott sat near him in the court, her son-in-law, Mr. Edward Hopper, defending his case. The opposing counsel asked that her chair might be moved, as her face would influence the jury against him! Benjamin H. Brewster, afterwards United States Attorney-General, also counsel for the Southern master, said: “I have heard a great deal of your mother-in-law, Hopper; but I never saw her before to-day. She is an angel.” Years after, when Mr. Brewster was asked how he dared to change his political opinions, he replied, “Do you think there is anything I dare not do, after facing Lucretia Mott in that court-room?”
It seemed best at this time, in 1856, as Mrs. Mott was much worn with care, to sell the large house in town and move eight miles into the country, to a quaint, roomy house which they called Roadside. Before they went, however, at the last family gathering a long poem was read, ending with:–
“Who constantly will ring the bell,
And ask if they will please to tell Where Mrs. Mott has gone to dwell?
“And who persistently will say,
‘We cannot, cannot go away;
Here in the entry let us stay?’
“Who never, never, nevermore
Will see the ‘lions’ at the door
That they’ve so often seen before? The neighbors.
“And who will miss, for months at least, That place of rest for man and beast,
from North, and South, and West, and East? Everybody.”
Much of the shrubbery was cut down at Roadside, that Mrs. Mott might have the full sunlight. So cheery a nature must have sunshine. Here life went on quietly and happy. Many papers and books were on her table, and she read carefully and widely. She loved especially Milton and Cowper. Arnold’s _Light of Asia_ was a great favorite in later years. The papers were sent to hospitals and infirmaries, that no good reading might be lost. She liked to read aloud; and if others were busy, she would copy extracts to read to them when they were at leisure. Who can measure the power of an educated, intellectual mother in a home?
The golden wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Mott was celebrated in 1861, and a joyous season it was. James, the prosperous merchant, was proud of his gifted wife, and aided her in every way possible; while Lucretia loved and honored the true-hearted husband. Though Mrs. Mott was now seventy, she did not cease her benevolent work. Her carriage was always full of fruits, vegetables, and gifts for the poor. In buying goods she traded usually with the small stores, where things were dearer, but she knew that for many of the proprietors it was a struggle to make ends meet. A woman so considerate of others would of course be loved.
Once when riding on the street-cars in Philadelphia, when no black person was allowed to ride inside, every fifth car being reserved for their use, she saw a frail-looking and scantily-dressed colored woman, standing on the platform in the rain. The day was bitter cold, and Mrs. Mott begged the conductor to allow her to come inside. “The company’s orders must be obeyed,” was the reply. Whereupon the slight Quaker lady of seventy walked out and stood beside the colored woman. It would never do to have the famous Mrs. Mott seen in the rain on his car; so the conductor, in his turn, went out and begged her to come in.
“I cannot go in without this woman,” said Mrs. Mott quietly. Nonplussed for a moment, he looked at the kindly face, and said, “Oh, well, bring her in then!” Soon the “company’s orders” were changed in the interests of humanity, and colored people as well as white enjoyed their civil rights, as becomes a great nation.
With all this beauty of character, Lucretia Mott had her trials. Somewhat early in life she and her husband had joined the so-called Unitarian branch of Quakers, and for this they were persecuted. So deep was the sectarian feeling, that once, when suffering from acute neuralgia, a physician who knew her well, when called to attend her, said, “Lucretia, I am so deeply afflicted by thy rebellious spirit, that I do not feel that I can prescribe for thee,” and he left her to her sufferings. Such lack of toleration reads very strangely at this day.
In 1868, Mr. Mott and his wife, the one eighty, and the other seventy-five, went to Brooklyn, N.Y., to visit their grandchildren. He was taken ill of pneumonia, and expressed a wish to go home, but added, “I suppose I shall die here, and then I shall be at home; it is just as well.” Mrs. Mott watched with him through the night, and at last, becoming weary, laid her head upon his pillow and went to sleep. In the morning, the daughter coming in, found the one resting from weariness, the other resting forever.
At the request of several colored men, who respected their benefactor, Mr. Mott was borne to his grave by their hands. Thus ended, for this world, what one who knew them well called “the most perfect wedded life to be found on earth.”
Mrs. Mott said, “James and I loved each other more than ever since we worked together for a great cause.” She carried out the old couplet:–
“And be this thy pride, what but few have done, To hold fast the love thou hast early won.”
After his death, she wrote to a friend, “I do not mourn, but rather remember my blessings, and the blessing of his long life with me.”
For twelve years more she lived and did her various duties. She had seen the slave freed, and was thankful. The other reforms for which she labored were progressing. At eighty-five she still spoke in the great meetings. Each Christmas she carried turkeys, pies, and a gift for each man and woman at the “Aged Colored Home,” in Philadelphia, driving twenty miles, there and back. Each year she sent a box of candy to each conductor and brakeman on the North Pennsylvania Railroad, “Because,” she said, “they never let me lift out my bundles, but catch them up so quickly, and they all seem to know me.”
Finally the time came for her to go to meet James. As the end drew near, she seemed to think that she was conducting her own funeral, and said, as though addressing an audience, “If you resolve to follow the Lamb wherever you may be led, you will find all the ways pleasant and the paths peace. Let me go! Do take me!”
There was a large and almost silent funeral at the house, and at the cemetery several thousand persons were gathered. When friends were standing by the open grave, a low voice said, “”Will no one say anything?” and another responded, “Who can speak? the preacher is dead!”
Memorial services were held in various cities. For such a woman as Lucretia Mott, with cultured mind, noble heart, and holy purpose, there are no sex limitations. Her field is the world.
Those who desire to know, more of this gifted woman will find it in a most interesting volume, _Lives of James and Lucretia Mott_, written by their grandaughter, Anna Davis Hallowell, West Medford, Mass.
MARY A. LIVERMORE.
[Illustration: MARY A. LIVERMORE.]
When a nation passes through a great struggle like our Civil War, great leaders are developed. Had it not been for this, probably Mrs. Livermore, like many other noble women, would be to-day living quietly in some pleasant home, doing the common duties of every-day life. She would not be the famous lecturer, the gifted writer, the leader of the Sanitary Commission in the West; a brilliant illustration of the work a woman may do in the world, and still retain the truest womanliness.
She was born in Boston, descended from ancestors who for six generations had been Welsh preachers, and reared by parents of the strictest Calvinistic faith. Mr. Rice, her father, was a man of honesty and integrity, while the mother was a woman of remarkable judgment and common sense.
Mary was an eager scholar, and a great favorite in school, because she took the part of all the poor children. If a little boy or girl was a cripple, or wore shabby clothes, or had scanty dinners, or was ridiculed, he or she found an earnest friend and defender in the courageous girl.
So fond was she of the five children in the home, younger than herself, and so much did she take upon herself the responsibility of their conversion, that when but ten years old, unable to sleep, she would rise from her bed and waken her father and mother that they might pray for the sisters. “It’s no matter about me,” she would say; “if they are saved, I can bear anything.”
Mature in thought and care-taking beyond her years, she was still fond of out-door sports and merry times. Sliding on the ice was her especial delight. One day, after a full hour’s fun in the bracing air, she rushed into the house, the blood tingling in every vein, exclaiming, “It’s splendid sliding!” “Yes,” replied the father, “it’s good fun, but wretched for shoes.”
All at once the young girl saw how hard it was for her parents to buy shoes, with their limited means; and from that day to this she never slid upon the ice.
There were few playthings in the simple home, but her chief pastime was in holding meetings in her father’s woodshed, with the other children. Great logs were laid out for benches, and split sticks were set upon them for people. Mary was always the leader, both in praying and preaching, and the others were good listeners. Mrs. Rice would be so much amused at the queer scene, that a smile would creep over her face; but Mr. Rice would look on reverently, and say, “I wish you had been a boy; you could have been trained for the ministry.”
When she was twelve years old she began to be eager to earn something. She could not bear to see her father work so hard for her. Alas! how often young women, twice twelve, allow their father’s hair to grow white from overwork, because they think society will look down upon them if they labor. Is work more a disgrace to a girl than a boy? Not at all. Unfortunate is the young man who marries a girl who is either afraid or ashamed to work.
Though not fond of sewing, Mary decided to learn dressmaking, because this would give her self-support. For three months she worked in a shop, that she might learn the trade, and then she stayed three months longer and earned thirty-seven cents a day. As this seemed meagre, she looked about her for more work. Going to a clothing establishment, she asked for a dozen red flannel shirts to make. The proprietor might have wondered who the child was, but he trusted her honest face, and gave her the bundle. She was to receive six and a quarter cents apiece, and to return them on a certain day. Working night after night, sometimes till the early morning hours, she was able to finish only half at the time specified.
On that day a man came to the door and asked, “Does Mary Rice live here?”
The mother had gone to the door, and answered in the affirmative.
“Well, she took a dozen red flannel shirts from my shop to make, and she hain’t returned ’em!”
“It can’t be my daughter,” said Mrs. Rice.
The man was sure he had the right number, but he looked perplexed. Just then Mary, who was in the sitting-room, appeared on the scene.
“Yes, mother, I got these shirts of the man.”
“You promised to get ’em done, Miss,” he said, “and we are in a great hurry.”
“You shall have the shirts to-morrow night,” said Mrs. Rice.
After the man left the house, the mother burst into tears, saying, “We are not so poor as that. My dear child, what is to become of you if you take all the cares of the world upon your shoulders?”
When the work was done, and the seventy-five cents received, Mary would take only half of it, because she had earned but half.
A brighter day was dawning for Mary Rice. A little later, longing for an education, Dr. Neale, their good minister, encouraged and assisted her to go to the Charlestown Female Seminary. Before the term closed one of the teachers died, and the bright, earnest pupil was asked to fill the vacancy. She accepted, reciting out of school to fit herself for her classes, earning enough by her teaching to pay her way, and taking the four years’ course in two years. Before she was twenty she taught two years on a Virginia plantation as a governess, and came North with six hundred dollars and a good supply of clothes. Probably she has never felt so rich since that day.
She was now asked to take charge of the Duxbury High School, where she became an inspiration to her scholars. Even the dullest learned under her enthusiasm. She took long walks to keep up her health and spirits, thus making her body as vigorous as her heart was sympathetic.
It was not to be wondered at that the bright young teacher had many admirers. Who ever knew an educated, genial girl who was not a favorite with young men? It is a libel on the sex to think that they prefer ignorant or idle girls.
Among those who saw the beauty of character and the mental power of Miss Rice was a young minister, whose church was near her schoolhouse. The first time she attended his services, he preached from the text, “And thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” Her sister had died, and the family were in sorrow; but this gospel of love, which he preached with no allusion to eternal punishment, was full of comfort. What was the minister’s surprise to have the young lady ask to take home the sermon and read it, and afterwards, some of his theological books. What was the teacher’s surprise, a little later, to find that while she was interested in his sermons and books, he had become interested in her. The sequel can be guessed easily; she became the wife of Rev. D.P. Livermore at twenty-three.
He had idolized his mother; very naturally, with deep reverence for woman, he would make a devoted husband. For fifteen years the intelligent wife aided him in editing _The New Covenant_, a religious paper published in Chicago, in which city they had made their home. Her writings were always clear, strong, and helpful. Three children had been born into their home, and life, with its cares and its work, was a very happy one.
But the time came for the quiet life to be entirely changed. In 1861 the nation found itself plunged into war. The slave question was to be settled once for all at the point of the bayonet. Like every other true-hearted woman, Mrs. Livermore had been deeply stirred by passing events. When Abraham Lincoln’s call for seventy-five thousand men was eagerly responded to, she was in Boston, and saw the troops, all unused to hardships, start for the battle-fields. The streets were crowded with tens of thousands. Bells rung, bands played, and women smiled and said good-bye, when their hearts were breaking. After the train moved out of the station, four women fainted; nature could no longer bear the terrible strain. Mrs. Livermore helped restore the women to consciousness. She had no sons to send; but when such partings were seen, and such sorrows were in the future, she could not rest.
What could women do to help in the dreadful struggle? A meeting of New York ladies was called, which resulted in the formation of an Aid Society, pledging loyalty to the Government, and promising assistance to soldiers and their families. Two gentlemen were sent to Washington to ask what work could be done, but word came back that there was no place for women at the front, nor no need for them in the hospitals. Such words were worse than wasted on American women. Since the day when men and women together breasted the storms of New England in the _Mayflower_, and together planted a new civilization, together they have worked side by side in all great matters. They were untiring in the Revolutionary War; they worked faithfully in the dark days of anti-slavery agitation, taking their very lives in their hands. And now their husbands and sons and brothers had gone from their homes. They would die on battle-fields, and in lonely camps untended, and the women simply said, “Some of us must follow our best-beloved.”
The United States Sanitary Commission was soon organized, for working in hospitals, looking after camps, and providing comforts for the soldiers. Branch associations were formed in ten large cities. The great Northwestern Branch was put under the leadership of Mrs. Livermore and Mrs. A.H. Hoge. Useful things began to pour in from all over the country,–fruits, clothing, bedding, and all needed comforts for the army. Then Mrs. Livermore, now a woman of forty, with great executive ability, warm heart, courage, and perseverance, with a few others, went to Washington to talk with President Lincoln.
“Can no women go to the front?” they asked.
“No civilian, either man or woman, is permitted by _law_,” said Mr. Lincoln. But the great heart of the greatest man in America was superior to the law, and he placed not a straw in their way. He was in favor of anything which helped the men who fought and bled for their country.
Mrs. Livermore’s first broad experience in the war was after the battle of Fort Donelson. There were no hospitals for the men, and the wounded were hauled down the hillside in rough-board Tennessee wagons, most of them dying before they reached St. Louis. Some poor fellows lay with the frozen earth around them, chopped out after lying in the mud from Saturday morning until Sunday evening.
One blue-eyed lad of nineteen, with both legs and both arms shattered, when asked, “How did it happen that you were left so long?” said, “Why, you see, they couldn’t stop to bother with us, _because they had to take the fort_. When they took it, we forgot our sufferings, and all over the battle-field cheers went up from the wounded, and even from the dying.”
At the rear of the battle-fields the Sanitary Commission now began to keep its wagons with hot soup and hot coffee, women, fitly chosen, always joining in this work, in the midst of danger. After the first repulse at Vicksburg, there was great sickness and suffering. The Commission sent Mrs. Hoge, two gentlemen accompanying her, with a boat-load of supplies for the sick. One emaciated soldier, to whom she gave a little package of white sugar, with a lemon, some green tea, two herrings, two onions, and some pepper, said, “Is that _all_ for me?” She bowed assent. She says: “He covered his pinched face with his thin hands and burst into a low, sobbing cry. I laid my hand upon his shoulder, and said, ‘Why do you weep?’ ‘God bless the women!’ he sobbed out. ‘What should we do but for them? I came from father’s farm, where all knew plenty; I’ve lain sick these three months; I’ve seen no woman’s face, nor heard her voice, nor felt her warm hand till to-day, and it unmans me; but don’t think I rue my bargain, for I don’t. I’ve suffered much and long, but don’t let them know at home. Maybe I’ll never have a chance to tell them how much; but I’d go through it all for the old flag.'”
Shortly after, accompanied by an officer, she went into the rifle-pits. The heat was stifling, and the minie-balls were whizzing. “Why, madam, where did you come from? Did you drop from heaven into these rifle-pits? You are the first lady we have seen here;” and then the voice was choked with tears.
“I have come from your friends at home, and bring messages of love and honor. I have come to bring you the comforts we owe you, and love to give. I’ve come to see if you receive what they send you,” she replied.
“Do they think as much of as as that? Why, boys, we can fight another year on that, can’t we?”
“Yes, yes!” they cried, and almost every hand was raised to brush away the tears.
She made them a kindly talk, shook the hard, honest hands, and said good-bye. “Madame,” said the officer, “promise me that you’ll visit my regiment to-morrow; ‘twould be worth a victory to them. You don’t know what good a lady’s visit to the army does. These men whom you have seen to-day will talk of your visit for six months to come. Around the fires, in the rifle-pits, in the dark night, or on the march, they will repeat your words, describe your looks, voice, size, and dress; and all agree in one respect,–that you look like an angel, and exactly like each man’s wife or mother. Ah! was there no work for women to do?
The Sanitary and Christian Commissions expended about fifty million dollars during the war, and of this, the women raised a generous portion. Each battle cost the Sanitary Commission about seventy-five thousand dollars, and the battle of Gettysburg, a half million dollars. Mrs. Livermore was one of the most efficient helpers in raising this money. She went among the people, and solicited funds and supplies of every kind.
One night it was arranged that she should speak in Dubuque, Iowa, that the people of that State might hear directly from their soldiers at the front. When she arrived, instead of finding a few women as she had expected, a large church was packed with both men and women, eager to listen. The governor of the State and other officials were present. She had never spoken in a mixed assembly. Her conservative training made her shrink from it, and, unfortunately, made her feel incapable of doing it.
“I cannot speak!” she said to the women who had asked her to come.
Disappointed and disheartened, they finally arranged with a prominent statesman to jot down the facts from her lips; and then, as best he could, tell to the audience the experiences of the woman who had been on battle-fields, amid the wounded and dying. Just as they were about to go upon the platform, the gentleman said, “Mrs. Livermore, I have heard you say at the front, that you would give your all for the soldiers,–a foot, a hand, or a voice. Now is the time to give your voice, if you wish to do good.”
She meditated a moment, and then she said, “I will try.”
When she arose to speak, the sea of faces before her seemed blurred. She was talking into blank darkness. She could not even hear her own voice. But as she went on, and the needs of the soldiers crowded upon her mind, she forgot all fear, and for two hours held the audience spell-bound. Men and women wept, and patriotism filled every heart. At eleven o’clock eight thousand dollars were pledged, and then, at the suggestion of the presiding officer, they remained until one o’clock to perfect plans for a fair, from which they cleared sixty thousand dollars. After this, Mrs. Livermore spoke in hundreds of towns, helping to organize many of the more than twelve thousand five hundred aid societies formed during eighteen months.
As money became more and more needed, Mrs. Livermore decided to try a sanitary commission fair in Chicago. The women said, “We will raise twenty-five thousand dollars,” but the men laughed at such an impossibility. The farmers were visited, and solicited to give vegetables and grain, while the cities were not forgotten. Fourteen of Chicago’s largest halls were hired. The women had gone into debt ten thousand dollars, and the men of the city began to think they were crazy. The Board of Trade called upon them and advised that the fair be given up; the debts should be paid, and the men would give the twenty-five thousand, when, in their judgment, it was needed! The women thanked them courteously, but pushed forward in the work.
It had been arranged that the farmers should come on the opening day, in a procession, with their gifts of vegetables. Of this plan the newspapers made great sport, calling it the “potato procession.” The day came. The school children had a holiday, the bells were rung, one hundred guns were fired, and the whole city gathered to see the “potato procession.” Finally it arrived,–great loads of cabbages, onions, and over four thousand bushels of potatoes. The wagons each bore a motto, draped in black, with the words, “We buried a son at Donelson,” “Our father lies at Stone River,” and other similar ones. The flags on the horses’ heads were bound with black; the women who rode beside a husband or son, were dressed in deep mourning. When the procession stopped before Mrs. Livermore’s house, the jeers were over, and the dense crowd wept like children.
Six of the public halls were filled with beautiful things for sale, while eight were closed so that no other attractions might compete with the fair. Instead of twenty-five thousand, the women cleared one hundred thousand dollars.
Then Cincinnati followed with a fair, making two hundred and twenty-five thousand; Boston, three hundred and eighty thousand; New York, one million; and Philadelphia, two hundred thousand more than New York. The women had found that there was work enough for them to do.
Mrs. Livermore was finally ordered to make a tour of the hospitals and military posts on the Mississippi River, and here her aid was invaluable. It required a remarkable woman to undertake such a work. At one point she found twenty-three men, sick and wounded, whose regiments had left them, and who could not be discharged because they had no descriptive lists. She went at once to General Grant, and said, “General, if you will give me authority to do so, I will agree to take these twenty-three wounded men home.”
The officials respected the noble woman, and the red tape of army life was broken for her sake.
When the desolate company arrived in Chicago, on Saturday, the last train had left which could have taken a Wisconsin soldier home. She took him to the hotel, had a fire made for him, and called a doctor.
“Pull him through till Monday, Doctor,” she said, “and I’ll get him home.” Then, to the lad, “You shall have a nurse, and Monday morning I will go with you to your mother.”
“Oh! don’t go away,” he pleaded; “I never shall see you again.”
“Well, then, I’ll go home and see my family, and come back in two hours. The door shall be left open, and I’ll put this bell beside you, so that the chambermaid will come when you ring.”
He consented, and Mrs. Livermore came back in two hours. The soldier’s face was turned toward the door, as though waiting for her, but he was dead. He had gone home, but not to Wisconsin.
After the close of the war, so eager were the people to hear her, that she entered the lecture field and has for years held the foremost place among women as a public speaker. She lectures five nights a week, for five months, travelling twenty-five thousand miles annually. Her fine voice, womanly, dignified manner, and able thought have brought crowded houses before her, year after year. She has earned money, and spent it generously for others. The energy and conscientiousness of little Mary Rice have borne their legitimate fruit.
Every year touching incidents came up concerning the war days. Once, after she had spoken at Fabyan’s American Institute of Instruction, a military man, six feet tall, came up to her and said, “Do you remember at Memphis coming over to the officers’ hospital?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Livermore.
While the officers were paid salaries, very often the paymasters could not find them when ill, and for months they would not have a penny, not even receiving army rations. Mrs. Livermore found many in great need, and carried them from the Sanitary Commission blankets, medicine, and food. Milk was greatly desired, and almost impossible to be obtained. One day she came into the wards, and said that a certain portion of the sick “could have two goblets of milk for every meal.”
“Do you remember,” said the tall man, who was then a major, “that one man cried bitterly and said, ‘I want two glasses of milk,’ and that you patted him on the head, as he lay on his cot? And that the man said, as he thought of the dear ones at home, whom he might not see again, ‘Could you kiss me?’ and the noble woman bent down and kissed him? I am that man, and God bless you for your kindness.”
Mrs. Livermore wears on her third finger a plain gold ring which has a touching history.
After lecturing recently at Albion, Mich., a woman came up, who had driven eight miles, to thank her for a letter written for John, her son, as he was dying in the hospital. The first four lines were dictated by the dying soldier; then death came, and Mrs. Livermore finished the message. The faded letter had been kept for twenty years, and copies made of it. “Annie, my son’s wife,” said the mother, “never got over John’s death. She kept about and worked, but the life had gone out of her. Eight years ago she died. One day she said, ‘Mother, if you ever find Mrs. Livermore, or hear of her, I wish you would give her my wedding ring, which has never been off my finger since John put it there. Ask her to wear it for John’s sake and mine, and tell her this was my dying request.'”
With tears in the eyes of both giver and receiver, Mrs. Livermore held out her hand, and the mother placed on the finger this memento of two precious lives.
Mrs. Livermore has spent ten years in the temperance reform. While she has shown the dreadful results of the liquor traffic, she has been kind both in word and deed. Some time ago, passing along a Boston street, she saw a man in the ditch, and a poor woman bending over him.
“Who is he?” she asked of the woman.
“He’s my husband, ma’am. He’s a good man when he is sober, and earns four dollars a day in the foundry. I keep a saloon.”
Mrs. Livermore called a hack. “Will you carry this man to number —-?”
“No, madam, he’s too dirty. I won’t soil my carriage.”
“Oh!” pleaded the wife, “I’ll clean it all up for ye, if ye’ll take him,” and pulling off her dress-skirt, she tried to wrap it around her husband. Stepping to a saloon near by, Mrs. Livermore asked the men to come out and help lift him. At first they laughed, but were soon made ashamed, when they saw that a lady was assisting. The drunken man was gotten upon his feet, wrapped in his wife’s clothing, put into the hack, and then Mrs. Livermore and the wife got in beside him, and he was taken home. The next day the good Samaritan called, and brought the priest, from whom the man took the pledge. A changed family was the result.
Her life is filled with thousands of acts of kindness, on the cars, in poor homes, and in various charitable institutions. She is the author of two or more books, _What shall we do with Our Daughters?_ and _Reminiscences of the War;_ but her especial power has been her eloquent words, spoken all over the country, in pulpits, before colleges, in city and country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. Like Abraham Lincoln, who said, “I go for all sharing the privileges of the government, who assist in bearing its burdens,–by no means excluding women,” she has advocated the enfranchisement of her sex, along with her other work.
Now, past sixty, her active, earnest life, in contact with the people, has kept her young in heart and in looks.
“A great authority on what constitutes beauty complains that the majority of women acquire a dull, vacant expression towards middle life, which makes them positively plain. He attributes it to their neglect of all mental culture, their lives having settled down to a monotonous routine of house-keeping, visiting, gossip, and shopping. Their thoughts become monotonous, too, for, though these things are all good enough in their way, they are powerless to keep up any mental life or any activity of thought.”
Mrs. Livermore has been an inspiration to girls to make the most of themselves and their opportunities. She has been an ideal of womanhood, not only to “the boys” on the battle-fields, but to tens of thousands who are fighting the scarcely less heroic battles of every-day life. May it be many years before she shall go out forever from her restful, happy home, at Melrose, Mass.
* * * * *
Mrs. Livermore died at her home, May 23, 1905, at 8 A.M., of bronchitis. She was in her eighty-fourth year, and had survived her husband six years. When her funeral services were held, the schools of Melrose closed, business was suspended, bells were tolled, and flags floated at half-mast. She was an active member of thirty-seven clubs. The degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon her, in 1896, by Tufts College.
MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI.
[Illustration: MARGARET FULLER
From engraving by Hall]
Margaret Fuller, in some respects the most remarkable of American women, lived a pathetic life and died a tragic death. Without money and without beauty, she became the idol of an immense circle of friends; men and women were alike her devotees. It is the old story: that the woman of brain makes lasting conquests of hearts, while the pretty face holds its sway only for a month or a year.
Margaret, born in Cambridgeport, Mass., May 23, 1810, was the oldest child of a scholarly lawyer, Mr. Timothy Fuller, and of a sweet-tempered, devoted mother. The father, with small means, had one absorbing purpose in life,–to see that each of his children was finely educated. To do this, and make ends meet, was a struggle. His daughter said, years after, in writing of him: “His love for my mother was the green spot on which he stood apart from the commonplaces of a mere bread-winning existence. She was one of those fair and flower-like natures, which sometimes spring up even beside the most dusty highways of life. Of all persons whom I have known, she had in her most of the angelic,–of that spontaneous love for every living thing, for man and beast and tree, which restores the Golden Age.”
Very fond of his oldest child, Margaret, the father determined that she should be as well educated as his boys. In those days there were no colleges for girls, and none where they might enter with their brothers, so that Mr. Fuller was obliged to teach his daughter after the wearing work of the day. The bright child began to read Latin at six, but was necessarily kept up late for the recitation. When a little later she was walking in her sleep, and dreaming strange dreams, he did not see that he was overtaxing both her body and brain. When the lessons had been learned, she would go into the library, and read eagerly. One Sunday afternoon, when she was eight years old, she took down Shakespeare from the shelves, opened at Romeo and Juliet, and soon became fascinated with the story.
“What are you reading?” asked her father.
“Shakespeare,” was the answer, not lifting her eyes from the page.
“That won’t do–that’s no book for Sunday; go put it away, and take another.”
Margaret did as she was bidden; but the temptation was too strong, and the book was soon in her hands again.
“What is that child about, that she don’t hear a word we say?” said an aunt.
Seeing what she was reading, the father said, angrily, “Give me the book, and go directly to bed.”
There could have been a wiser and gentler way of control, but he had not learned that it is better to lead children than to drive them.
When not reading, Margaret enjoyed her mother’s little garden of flowers. “I loved,” she says, “to gaze on the roses, the violets, the lilies, the pinks; my mother’s hand had planted them, and they bloomed for me. I kissed them, and pressed them to my bosom with passionate emotions. An ambition swelled my heart to be as beautiful, as perfect as they.”
Margaret grew to fifteen with an exuberance of life and affection, which the chilling atmosphere of that New England home somewhat suppressed, and with an increasing love for books and cultured people. “I rise a little before five,” she writes, “walk an hour, and then practise on the piano till seven, when we breakfast. Next, I read French–Sismondi’s _Literature of the South of Europe_–till eight; then two or three lectures in Brown’s _Philosophy._ About half past nine I go to Mr. Perkins’s school, and study Greek till twelve, when, the school being dismissed, I recite, go home, and practise again till dinner, at two. Then, when I can, I read two hours in Italian.”
And why all this hard work for a girl of fifteen? The “all-powerful motive of ambition,” she says. “I am determined on distinction, which formerly I thought to win at an easy rate; but now I see that long years of labor must be given.”
She had learned the secret of most prominent lives. The majority in this world will always be mediocre, because they lack high-minded ambition and the willingness to work.
Two years after, at seventeen, she writes: “I am studying Madame de Stael, Epictetus, Milton, Racine, and the Castilian ballads, with great delight…. I am engrossed in reading the elder Italian poets, beginning with Berni, from whom I shall proceed to Pulci and Politian.” How almost infinitely above “beaus and dresses” was such intellectual work as this!
It was impossible for such a girl not to influence the mind of every person she met. At nineteen she became the warm friend of Rev. James Freeman Clarke, “whose friendship,” he says, “was to me a gift of the gods…. With what eagerness did she seek for knowledge! What fire, what exuberance, what reach, grasp, overflow of thought, shone in her conversation!… And what she thus was to me, she was to many others. Inexhaustible in power of insight, and with a good will ‘broad as ether,’ she could enter into the needs, and sympathize with the various excellences, of the greatest variety of characters. One thing only she demanded of all her friends, that they should not be satisfied with the common routine of life,–that they should aspire to something higher, better, holier, than had now attained.”
Witty, learned, imaginative, she was conceded to be the best conversationist in any circle. She possessed the charm that every woman may possess,–appreciation of others, and interest in their welfare. This sympathy unlocked every heart to her. She was made the confidante of thousands. All classes loved her. Now it was a serving girl who told Margaret her troubles and her cares; now it was a distinguished man of letters. She was always an inspiration. Men never talked idle, commonplace talk with her; she could appreciate the best of their minds and hearts, and they gave it. She was fond of social life, and no party seemed complete without her.