Lydia Maria Child

On this date in 1802, Lydia Maria Francis Child was born. Considered one of the "first women of letters" in the United States, she became a famous abolitionist, author, novelist and journalist. Americans continue singing her lyrics in the song, "Over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house we go." The daughter of a Calvinist, she joined the Unitarians in 1820, but was unchurched most of her life. She ran a school, started the first journal for children, wrote several novels, then supported herself (and her husband) by writing such popular how-to books as The Frugal Housewife, The Mother's Book and The Little Girl's Own Book. Her history, The First Settlers of New England, blamed Calvinist-based racism for the treatment of Native Americans.

An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans recruited many to the anti-slavery movement, but made Child a pariah in Boston society. Her 2-volume The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations was published in 1835. She continued abolition work, supporting herself through popular writings and newspaper columns. The Progress of Religious Ideas (1855) rejected theology, dogma, doctrines, and talked of "Providence" as the inward voice of conscience. She later defined religion as simply working for the welfare of the human race. At her death, her funeral was presided over by Wendell Phillips, John Greenleaf Whittier recited a memorial poem in her honor, and The Truth Seeker memorialized her. D. 1880.

It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work theology has done in the world."

—Lydia Maria Child, The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages, 1855. See also

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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