Cary Sisters: poets of their time

Phoebe Cary Alice CaryIn 1849, a Philadelphia publisher decided to publish an anthology of Poetry from Alice and Phoebe Cary.  Born and Raised in Mt. Healthy, a center for the Liberty Party activity in the 1840s, the sisters were exposed to issues of the day.  Robert and Elizabeth Cary were converts to Universalism. “Pious and bible-oriented, they were theologically liberal and passed to their children a strong sense of equality and social justice.”[1]

Their uncle Freeman was the president of the faculty at Farmers’ College a few miles south and they were often guests at his house.  In 1835, their  mother died and in 1838 Alice’s first major poem, “The Child of Sorrow,” was published. Horace Greeley visited the sisters at their farm in Mt. Healthy. Alice wrote in 1848 for Women’s Rights in Susan B. Anthony’s “The Revolution” newspaper.

In 1850, the sisters decided to move to New York City where they held a weekly salon in their home and were involved in the women’s rights movement.  Alice’s poetry was published in the National Era, Washington, D.C., the abolitionist paper that serialized Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.   The National Era Prospectus stated:

While due attention will be paid to Current Events, Congressional Proceedings, General Politics and Literature, the great aim of the paper will be a complete discussion of the Question of Slavery, and an exhibition of the Duties of the Citizen in relation to it; especially will it explain and advocate the leading Principles and Measures of the Liberty Party, seeking to do this, not in the spirit of the Party, but in the love of Truth—not for the triumph of Party, but for the establishment of Truth…[2]

The sisters established a Sunday Solon regularly attended by many thinkers of the day:

Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune
John Greenleaf Whittier
George Ripley, who founded Brook Farm
Mary E. Dodge, author of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
Poets Richard and Elizabeth Stoddard
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Mary Booth, editor of Harper’s Bazaar
William Lloyd Garrison
P. T. Barnum [3]

1. (January 27, 2014)

2.“The National Era”. African American Newspapers. Accessible Archives, Inc. Retrieved 11 December 2012.

3.  (Feb. 7, 2014)  by Isabella Maria

Diana Porter, January 27, 2014

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