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Whittier Cameo        
Mary Abigail Dodge        
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Mary Abigail Dodge (aka Gail Hamilton)


I met Whittier as his romance with Elizabeth Howell ended. I found him "irresistible" and even "sweet"...

I was a writer on women's issues. I believed that we should have equal education and occupational opportunities. I wrote under the pen name of Gail Hamilton (after the town where I lived), because I disliked the attention that my sometime inflammatory writings brought to me. In a tribute that Whittier wrote to me, he said my wit was like "heat lightning."

patty_0661-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg I also wrote about anti-slavery issues and I was with Whittier when Emancipation Day was celebrated at Newburyport City Hall. Whittier published my writings in his abolition newsletters.

After John's sister Elizabeth died, his friendship with me and his other women friends became more of a necessary part of his life. He would invite us to his home, and as guests at the annual Laurel Party along the Merrimac River where we would see old friends. When I would visit Whittier's home in Amesbury, I would tease him about the "perennial oak fountain" that he had in the closet of the Garden Room. He would continuously go into the closet, emerging with wood to put in his beloved wood stove; but I never saw anyone restocking wood in the closet.

You know, Whittier suffered from ill health and had a physical breakdown in 1845, when he was just 26 years old. His work in politics and the anti-slavery movement was mentally very taxing for him. But he was a bit of a hypochondriac too, and he told me "it was the duty of every good Christian to visit the sick ...and that no one was little better than sick himself..." In later years, he claimed that "he was deaf and lame, but thankful that he still had his eyesight."

With his increasing popularity, "Pilgrims," as he called them, would come calling wherever he was staying, hoping to share some time in his presence. He would have his hat and coat "at the ready" so he could say he was engaged somewhere else when he felt the need to escape.

In 1891 he was living in Newburyport, staying at the home of his cousins, the Cartlandís. Fifty-six members of the Haverhill Whittier's Club came by train to visit him there, bringing roses to add to the carnations, wreaths, fruit, and last baskets and other gifts he had already received. I went to visit him on his 84th and last birthday.

Note.With the passage of the 13th amendment and the abolition of slavery, Whittier turned to writing poetry which he needed to have published to earn a living. He also promoted the writings of his friends and became a life-long advisor and supporter to them. When the firm of Ticknor and Fields, who published the Atlantic Monthly, accepted his works, he found a friend in Annie Adams Fields.