CHILD, LYDIA MARIA FRANCIS (11 February 1802, Medford, MA-20 October 1880, Wayland, MA). Career: Author, Watertown, MA, 1820-28;
school keeper, Watertown, 1825-28; author, Boston, 1828-37; Northampton, MA, 1837-40; editor, National Anti-Slavery Standard, New York, 1841-43; author, New York, 1843-50; West Newton, MA, 1850-52; Wayland, MA, 1852-74; Wayland and Boston, 1874-80.
In 1824 Lydia Maria Francis published the novel Hobomok, a popular success that launched her lifelong career as an author. She was at the time residing with her brother Convers Francis, the Unitarian minister in Watertown, Massachusetts, and from that position she met and befriended many Boston and Cambridge intellectuals and reformers. She married reform-minded David Child in 1828 and continued her writing, increasingly recognizing her female audience and offering them works of self-help and advice about "woman's sphere," such as The Frugal Housewife (1829) and The Mother's Book (1831). Her career became controversial when she wrote a strong antislavery tract, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (1833), a work that achieved fame on its own and also influenced William Ellery Channings famous Slavery (1835). Meanwhile, the financial support of herself and her husband fell increasingly to her, as he failed in an attempt to raise sugar beets as an alternative to southern cane sugar. She edited the National Anti-Slavery Standard in the early 1840s as an extension of her antislavery work. Although she was moderate in comparison with many feminists, she advocated women's independence and self-reliance, touching on the questions of women's rights in her Letters from New York (1843-45). She also made an early entrance into the study of comparative religion with her Progress of Religious Ideas through Successive Ages (1855). As an author, an advocate of women's independence, a historian of religion, and a writer against slavery, Child had an influential and memorable career.
A. Hobomok: A Tale of Early Times (Boston. 1824); The Frugal Housewife (Boston, 1829); The Modier's Book (Boston and Baltimore. 1831); An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Air icons (Boston. 1833); Letters From New-York (New York and Boston, 1843); Letters from New York: Second Series (New York and Boston, 1845); The Progress of Religious Ideas through Successive Ages (New York and London, 1855); The Freedmen's Book (Boston. 1865); Lydia Maria Child: Selected Letters. 1817-1880. ed. Milton Meltzer and Paricia G. Holland (Amherst. MA, 1982).
B. DAB 4.67-69; DLB 1,26-37; NAW 1,330-33; Seth Curtis Beach, Daughters of the Puritans (Boston, 1905); Helene G. Baer, The Heart Is Like Heaven: The Life of Lydia Maria Child (Philadelphia. 1964); Milton Meltzer. Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child (New York. 1965); William S. Osborne. Lydia Maria Child (Boston. 1980).