(Approximately) 1753 – 1784
She was quite a celebrity in her day: a poet from the (in the 17th century in the Colonial United States) mysterious continent of Africa. She proved to the Northern English speaking elite that it was not only their pale skinned comrades who had a polished, ready to serve mind.
She was adopted off a boat from West Africa by the Wheatley family from Boston. They treated her well, giving her an education as well as using her as a house servant.
She learned side-by-side with the “other” Wheatley children.
When it was discovered she had a gift for language, it was something to be developed.
She began writing poetry in earnest.
She was talked about by people across Europe as well as in “the young or the soon to be” United States.
She was so successful, she was freed.
The only problem is she was completely unprepared for the costs of freedom. She didn’t know how to be a “good worker” with her hands. She had been focusing on her power with words which required only lying in bed on the worst days.
She married another freed slave.
She had a child.
She worked as a scullery maid.
Her husband left her.
Her child died.
She died near penniless.
How many poems with her went unexpressed?
Her tragedy is relatively unknown.
This was the life of Phillis Wheatley. She was once a word-celebrity, in the end just another face in a crowd of sad, unfulfilled faces. What happened in her relationship with the Wheatley family? Did they know what happened to her? Did they care?
I wonder if she continued to write when her life changed, but her poems from that time died with her. I hope she wrote. I wish we could find those poems and come to know her life “after” better.
This blog post is an entry in the A to Z Challenge. Each day in April (except Sundays) I will be featuring a woman in literary history. If you click on the logo below, you will be introduced to the writing of more than a thousand bloggers writing on a wide variety of topics in April, all from A to Z!
Julie Jordan Scott has been a Life & Creativity Coach, Writer, Facilitator and Teleclass Leader since 1999. She is also an award winning Actor, Director, Artist and Mother Extraordinaire. She was twice the StoryTelling Slam champion in Bakersfield. She teaches a teleclass/ecourse "Discover the Power of Writing & Telling Engaging, Enlightening Stories" which begins again April 19, 2012. Find details by clicking this link.
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