Digital Commonwealth

Thomas Wentworth Higginson Correspondence, 1848-1909

Boston Public Library

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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1823-1911, was an abolitionist, author, Civil War colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, and Unitarian minister from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1841, and went on to study theology at Harvard Divinity School. Higginson became involved in the Abolitionist movement in the 1840s. He was a member of the Secret Six that supported John Brown and a member of the Free Soil Party. Higginson was a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement and organized the American Women Suffrage Organization in 1869. He served as editor and contributor for The Woman’s Journal. Higginson was also associated with the Atlantic Monthly, having contributed many essays, articles, and poems. It was here where Higginson began corresponding with Emily Dickinson and other women writers. After Dickinson’s death, he helped Mabel Loomis Todd edit her poems for eventual publication.

Of the letters in this collection, many deal with abolition, women’s suffrage, and literature. Correspondents include abolitionists, writers, and suffragettes such as Lydia Maria Child, Sarah Orne Jewett, Louise Chandler Moulton, Harriet Spofford, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, Anne Whitney, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Also included is correspondence from Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Abby Kelley Foster. In addition, there are letters from Una Hawthorne and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop as well as Mabel Loomis Todd. Contents of these letters range from extending, accepting, and declining invitations to meet; exchanging poetry; soliciting Higginson’s criticism and advice; expressing appreciation of Higginson’s own poetry; administrative concerns relating to the Boston Authors Club; discussion of women’s suffrage events; and inviting Higginson to speak at functions or contribute to literary journals.

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