Whittier Cameo        
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Ward)        
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brooch10.png Played by Marcia Hannon-Buber

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Ward)

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote to me in 1859 after he read my story "The Tenth of January" in the Atlantic Monthly. The story was about the fire and collapse of cotton mills in Lawrence, MA where scores of young women died.

buber_0672-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg I was bom in Boston, MA. My father was the Rev. Austin Phelps of the Pine Street Congregational Church. My mother was a writer and encouraged my education at the Abbott Academy and Mrs. Edwards School for Young Ladies.

As a young girl, I loved to tell stories to my friends and schoolmates. My first story was published in Youth's Companion when I was only 13. As I matured I wrote children's books, magazine articles, and lectured. In fact I was the first women lecturer at Boston College.

buber_0676-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg My most famous book was Gates Ajar, selling over 100,000 copies. I wrote this book at the end of the Civil War, feeling that little was written for or about women during this conflict, and thinking that not enough attention was paid to their sufferings.

I was known for my work in social reform, temperance, and women's emancipation. I was also involved in clothing reform for women and in 1874 encouraged them to burn their corsets by writing:

Burn up the corsets!... No, nor do you save the whalebones; you will never need whalebones again. Make a bonfire of the cruel steels that have lorded it over your thorax and abdomens for so many years and heave a sigh of relief, for your emancipation, I assure you, from this moment has begun.

buber_0677-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg I wanted to write a memorial about Whittier, but my shy, dear friend discouraged me saying that "there was little or nothing to say about his life."

I had a cottage that I had christened "Old Maid's Paradise," that is until, at the age of 44, I married journalist Herbert Dickinson Ward, a son of a friend, who was seventeen years younger than I. We had a grand life together; we even went on to co-author two Biblical romances.

I was the original cougar of my day, wasn't I?

Note. During the critical and turbulent years in our country's history, Whittier was engaged at the national level with the anti-slavery movement and his political work. As an older man he stayed active at the local level, where town politics took up some of his time as Trustee of the Library in Haverhill, where he lectured to the public about people like his friend Harriet Livermore.