Monday, February 11, 2013

Lydia Maria Child

“The subject I have chosen admits of no encomiums on my country; but as I generally make it an object to supply what is most needed, this circumstance is unimportant; the market is so glutted with flattery, that a little truth may be acceptable, were it only for its rarity.” 
—Lydia Maria Child, preface to An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833)

 Born this day in 1802: Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880), writer and speaker who advocated for the rights of African Americans, Native Americans, and women; one of the first women to make a living from writing

Lydia Maria Child was born Lydia Maria Francis in Medford, Massachusetts. A teacher, novelist, and publisher of a children’s magazine, Child became a tireless champion of African Americans, Native Americans, and women. She was one of the first women in the country to make a living from writing, including writing a popular book on domestic economy and novels for children. This living was often threatened because of the bold stances she took against slavery, the unequal treatment of African Americans, and the gross injustices perpetrated on Native Americans. Unlike many abolitionists, she sought equal treatment of whites and blacks in American society. Her influential work An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833) laid out the injustices and horrors of slavery and protested the unequal educational and employment opportunities for African Americans. The outspoken work prompted many to join the abolitionist movement. But many others stopped buying her books, publishers stopped accepting her work, and she was fired as editor of a children’s magazine. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier noted that “her praises were suddenly silenced. No woman in this country…sacrificed so much for principles as Mrs. Child.” She was very influential in her day, but what is she most remembered for today? Writing the words to “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Let’s change that, femiloguers!

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