Grace Greenwood, once famous, now forgotten

A fun thing in combing Julia Wilbur's diaries is coming across headline events and people of the day--once huge, now forgotten. One night in 1860, Julia and her niece went to Corinthian Hall to hear “Grace Greenwood, otherwise Sarah Jane Clarke, otherwise Mrs. Lippencott” lecture on “the heroic in common life.”

Indeed, the lecturer went by all these names. As Sarah Clarke, she and Julia were students at the same academy in Rochester one winter, called Miss Clemens'. Sarah began to submit poems and children's stories to local papers, then her family moved to Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Willis, editor of a popular magazine of the day (and, coincidentally, the employer of Harriet Jacobs) started publishing her work nationally. She took on the pseudonym Grace Greenwood, and she started writing for Godey’s Lady’s Book. But she spoke out against slavery, which Godey’s did not want.  She went out on the lecture circuit and wrote for the National Era and Saturday Evening Post. Her series of "Washington Letters" appeared in the Post for decades.

In the mid-1850s, she married a fellow writer named Leander Lippincott and the two published what is known as the first children's magazine in the U.S. She railed against the law of the day--as a married woman, she could no longer hold the copyright to her own work--and continued to speak out against slavery and for woman's rights. Greenwood/Lippincott remained a prolific journalist, poet, and children's author for decades, surviving a scandal in the mid-1870s when her philandering husband fled the country to avoid a trial for financial misconduct.

So Grace Greenwood--famous for decades, although Nathaniel Hawthorne complained about her and the rest of the "damned mob of scribbling women" taking over the country.

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