Are you ready to meet a literary Granny who not only wrote circles around most of the writers in her day, but she also wrote circles around an overly pious clergyman who was chopping women down with words? She did what she could to show him the writing royalty was queen not king.
Gail Hamilton (1833 – 1896) was born with a different name: Mary Abigail Dodge
She actually chose her pen name based on the farm town where she was born, Hamilton, Massachusetts. She was sent to boarding school away from Hamilton but was recognized for her intelligence and “moved up” to Ipswich Female Seminary. She started adulthood as a teacher right after she graduated.
She taught at the seminary for four years after graduation but she tired of the long, dull, underpaying hours of school teacher. She supplemented her salary with writing essays and short stories and began to attract attention as a writer. She chose to become a writing-governess employed by abolitionist publisher Dr. Gamaliel Bailey in the heart of Washington, DC. As usual, she used her intelligence to leverage her situation to the greatest good. She published articles and poetry to abolitionist and political magazines as well as standard periodicals like “Atlantic Monthly” and “Country Living and Country Thinking.”
Her viewpoint was forever feminine. As she grew in her success, she evolved her subjects from practical tips and doing the ever popular for the day sermonizing on every day topics to self reliance and respect all the while utilizing her sharp wit and quick mind to her literary advantage. She had another connection with another Literary Granny, Lucy Larcom after returning to Massachusetts to help her family through a difficult time. Together, Lucy and Gail edited the magazine Our Young Folks. (There is a link to Lucy Larcom’s profile from 2012 below).
Gail spent most of her life trying to improve the status of women through her writing. It surprised me to find that she while she wasn’t completely against suffrage, she felt there were other ways for women to rise to the increased station in life all women deserved. She, at times, believed in more than equality between men and women in other ways. This reminds me a bit of the debate over Zora Neale Hurston (Literary Granny from last year) not believing de-segregation was necessary. As a writer from the Harlem Renaissance, the assumption was she would champion the cause for equal education for all. She felt, however, that integrating schools was an insult to her African American teachers.
We must consider not just the facts as we see them, but the facts as each woman sees them. Think of the ways we can change our thoughts if we value different opinions from our own.
Finally, a quote from Gail Hamilton: "The nursery has no business to be the mother's chrysalis," she wrote. "God never intended her to wind herself up into a cocoon. If he had, he would have made her a caterpillar."
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Read last year’s entry about Lucy Larcom here.
Read last year’s entry about Zora Neale Hurston here.
This post is a part of my series Our Literary Grannies from A t0 Z which was inspired by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Find out more about the Challenge by either clicking here.
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