(February 11, 1802-October 20, 1880)
Born in Medford, Massachusetts
Birth name was Lydia Maria Francis
Abolitionist, feminist, cookbook author, novelist, and journalist
Married prominent social activist and journalist David Lee Child (1828)
Founded the Juvenile Miscellany, the first monthly periodical for children, and supervised its publication for eight years (1826-34)
Published 'An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans,' arguing for the emancipation of the slaves (1833)
Author of 'Hobomok,' 'The Frugal Housewife,' 'The Mother's Book,' 'The Girl's Own Book,' 'The Freedmen's Book,' 'Evenings in New England,' and 'Isaac T. Hopper: A Life'
Served on the Executive Board of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), alongside Lucretia Mott, in the 1830s-40s
Best remembered for her popular Thanksgiving poem, 'Over the River and Through the Wood,' published in 1844
Why she might be annoying
Her 'Romance for the Republic' was to be her Magnum Opus --the quintessential American epic -- but it is barely ever read or taught contemporarily.
Her pen name was 'An American Lady' (or sometimes just 'An American' when she published more risqué material).
Although no stranger to controversy, her domestic writings ensured her a more benign place among her peers in a male dominated literary class.
Because of this, she has lived on in historical memory to overshadow some of the more interesting - certainly more radical - pioneers of the early feminist movement, such as Margaret Fuller and Victoria Woodhull.
She resigned from the National Anti-Slavery Standard in the 1840s, reportedly saying of abolition that she was 'finished with the cause forever.'
Many of her literary works would be called dated by today's standards; if anything, perpetuating racial stereotypes rather than disproving them.
This includes endorsing the image of the American Indian as the noble 'vanishing' savage, such as in 'Hobomok,' in which the main protagonist makes his exit declaring 'Hobomok will go far off among some of the red men in the west. They will dig him a grave, and Mary may sing the marriage song in the wigwam of the Englishman.'
She is of no relation whatsoever to Julia Child, despite both being celebrated American cookbook authors little more than a century apart.
She provided the basis for an annoying-as-hell Thanksgiving melody that most people only know the first two verses of.
Her original opening verses were 'over the river and through the wood/to grandfather's house we go,' but people have since substituted the 'grandmother' for 'grandfather,' instead for some reason.
Why she might not be annoying
She was one of the first activists to dually advocate for both women's suffrage and abolition.
She helped to finance the first anti-slavery fair.
Her editions of the 'Frugal American Housewife' were socially groundbreaking in that it granted the poor and middle class family access to gourmet recipes (in other words the original epicure for 'servantless American cooks').
Her book sales started to plummet when she delved into social reform issues like slavery, women's rights, and Indian removal.
She is widely believed to have been the first white American to publish a written work arguing against slavery.
She resolved to write the first chapter of her maiden novel after reading an article on the importance of New England history (on her brother's encouragement, she completed the novel's remainder in only six weeks).
She broke ground by tackling the issue of miscegenation and Indian land rights in 'Hobomok,' which was also her first attempt at a novel (1824).
She only left the Anti-Slavery movement when it became too divided over whether the use of violence and force was acceptable.
She did, however, continue writing essays and articles supporting the abolitionist cause, and even offered her services to John Brown's sickbed following the Harpers' Ferry Raid.
She was accused of helping to 'ghost-write' escaped slave Harriet Jacobs' autobiography, 'Narrative in the Life of a Slave Girl' (which she wrote the Preface to).
She became more vocal in her support of Indian rights in the late 1860s, publishing 'An Appeal for the Indians,' in 1868, calling for government officials and religious leaders to recognize treat the Native Americans humanely.
The 'Appeal' has since been credited with leading to the founding of the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners and the Peace Policy in President Ulysses S. Grant's administration.
The house of her grandparents', which she wrote about visiting, was restored by Tufts University, and stands near the Mystic River on South Street in Medford, Massachusetts (1976).
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