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A Woman of the Century:   A Crowdsourcing Project of the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries

November 21 - November 27

Women of the Week

Abby Morton Diaz, an industrial reformer, Celeste M.A. Winslow, an author, Sophia Curtiss Hoffman, a philanthropist, Caroline Lathrop Post, an author and poet, and Lillian Blanche Fearing, a lawyer and poet, are this week's Women of the Week.  

  • To learn about them by viewing their items, please click on their images.  

  • To read their biographical sketches in A Woman of the Century, please click on the highlighted page numbers to the left of their images.

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DIAZ, Abby Morton

November 22, 1821

industrial reformer

Plymouth, MA

p. 240-241

Abby Morton Diaz was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on November 22, 1821.  During the 1840s, Abby and some of her family members spent time at Brook Farm, the Uptopian community in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Recalling her friendship with Abby there, Ora Gannett Sedgwick later commented: "Among these I must not omit to mention Abby Morton (Mrs. Diaz), who became very dear to me, and whose peculiar combination of liveliness and dignity, together with her beautiful singing, made her a favorite with all the members, old and new" [Atlantic Monthly, 85 (509): 401]. 

Abby's career included being an industrial reformer, an Anti-Slavery advocate, a teacher, a housekeeper, a social worker, and an author.  She was writing fiction by her early forties and contributed to The ArenaThe Atlantic MonthlyHearth and HomeThe IndependentNew England Magazine, Our Young Folks, and Wide Awake.

Diaz's three 1864 pieces in The Atlantic Monthly were "The Schoolmaster's Story,"  "Some Account of the Early Life of an Old Bachelor," and "The Little Country-Girl."

A popular juvenile fiction writer, she often published with James R. Osgood and Company.  Her The William Henry Letters was published in 1872.  During the Christmas holiday of 1877, her The Jimmyjohns & Other Stories received high praise from The Independent: "The Jimmyjohns and Other Stories, by the charming juvenile writer, Mrs. A. M. Diaz, is one of the very best children's books of the year."  Some of her other works were: William Henry and His FriendsThe Cats' Arabian Nights, or King Grimalkum, and  Bybury to Beacon Street

While writing, she also continued lecturing on topics such as "Women's Work for the Millenium."

In 1889, Abby wrote a piece about her hometown, "A Plymouth Pilgrimage," for New England Magazine.  Ten years later, Diaz penned "Antislavery Times in Plymouth" for the same periodical.

Abby continued to write and publish into the new century.  Her The Flatiron and the Red Cloak; Old Times at X-Roads was published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Company in 1901.  She passed away in Belmont, Massachusetts on April 1, 1904 and was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

<a href="/WOC/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=WINSLOW%2C+Mrs.+Celeste+M.A.">WINSLOW, Mrs. Celeste M.A.</a>

WINSLOW, Mrs. Celeste M. A.

November 22, 1837

author

Charlemont, MA

p. 791

Celeste M. A. Winslow was born in Charlemont, Massachusetts, on November 22, 1837.  

A prolific writer, Celeste penned articles for numerous periodicals.  Her poem "Perplexed" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in  June 1876, while her poem "Ah, Dawn, Delay" graced the pages of the same magazine in October 1879. Another poem, "Change," was published in Scribner's Monthly in October 1881.  She also wrote for The Independent, penning "The Robin", which was reprinted in other periodicals, in 1886."

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HOFFMAN, Mrs. Sophia Curtiss

November 24, 1825

philanthropist

Sheffield, MA

p. 384-385

Philanthropist and women's rights advocate Sophia Curtiss Hoffman was born in Sheffield, Massachusetts, on November 24, 1825.  Emma Curtiss Bascom, her younger sister, is also in A Woman of the Century.  Sophia married George Hoffman and moved to New York City.  The Hoffmans were parents to one boy and one girl.

A Universalist, Sophia was very involved with Chapin Home for the Aged, a cause of Rev. Edwin Hubbell Chapin.  Active in women's rights causes, she was a  founder of  Sorosis and an officer of the Association for the Advancement of Women.  She also belonged to the National Society of New England Women.

Sophia's personal network included prima donna Emma Abbott, whose career she gave financial support to, Charlotte Emerson BrownRev. Phebe Anne Hanaford, Julia Ward Howe, Mary Emilie Cobb, Nellie V. Mark, and Maud Howe Elliott.

When George suffered a financial downfall in 1872, and passed away soon after, Sophia's philanthropic activities diminished. By 1902, she was living at 453 West 144th Street in New York City.  Sophia passed away at her daughter's home in New Rochelle on September 12, 1905. She was buried in Claverack Dutch Reformed Churchyard in Claverack, New York.

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POST, Mrs. Caroline Lathrop

November 27, 1824

author and poet

Ashford, CT

p. 584

Caroline Lathrop Post was born in Ashford, Connecticut, on November 27, 1824, and began her writing career at an early age.  Her family later moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

She married Abner L. Parsons on March 27, 1844, and gave birth to Clarence Lathrop Parsons, but she lost both her husband and her young son in 1849.  After returning to her family in Hartford, Carrie moved to Springfield, Illinois, in 1851 and met Charles Rollin Post, a friend of her brother's.  She returned to Hartford the next year and continued to correspond with Charles.  They were married on October 10, 1853, and resided in Springfield (Major, 286). Over time, Caroline gave birth to Charles William, Aurelian, and Carroll.  She and her family were members of the First Congregational Church.  When the boys were growing up, Carrie "guided her boys in the arts, music, and literature" (Major, 290).  She also found time to contribute to several publications, including Chicago AdvanceLife and LightGolden Rule, and Floral World.

In 1886, Caroline's family moved to Fort Worth, Texas.  She  continued to write both poetry and prose and was involved with the Woman's Board of Missions.  The Magazine of Poetry from 1892 published both a short biographical sketch and six of her poems.  The October 1907 volume of Mission Studies included her poem "The Message of Christ and His Angel to Woman."  She published them in Aunt Carrie's Poems, in 1909.

During the 1890s, her son, Charles William (C.W.) Post, became a millionaire through his inventions in the cereal industry. Since his parents were devoted churchgoers and needed a new church, C.W. donated the money for the First Congregational Church of Fort Worth in 1903 (Major, 292). That same year, Charles Rollin and Caroline celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, a milestone that was mentioned in Margaret E. Sangster's "Around the Hearth" page in The Christian Herald.

When he was ill in 1914, C.W. committed suicide.  In his eulogy, C.W.'s cousin, Rev. Roswell C. Post, paid tribute to Carrie and Rollin, as well as to Charlie. When she heard of her son's death, ninety-year-old Carrie wrote a poem to him.  A few months later, on October 17, 1914, Carrie passed away in Fort Worth.  She was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

<a href="/WOC/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=FEARING%2C+Miss+Lillian+Blanche">FEARING, Miss Lillian Blanche</a>

FEARING, Miss Lillian Blanche

November 27, 1863

lawyer and poet

Davenport, IA

p. 286

Author and lawyer Lillian Blanche Fearing was born in Davenport, Iowa, on November 27, 1863.  Despite being blind from birth, Lillian achieved much during her lifetime.  Lillian's obituary in the Rock Island Argus notes, in part:

"At the age of 8 she published her first poem, and by the time she was 12 years old her verses were appearing regularly in the Boston Transcript.  Personal letters commending her work were sent her by Oliver Wendell Holmes, John G. Whittier, and Edmund Clarence Stedman."

When she was taking courses at Union College of Law in Chicago, Lillian's mother "was her constant companion and read books to her" (The Comet).  When she graduated, Lillian was the only woman in her class and one of four scholarship recipients (Watertown Republican).

Well regarded by her peers, Lillian was one of the people feated in literary critic William Morton Payne's "Literary Chicago" in the February 1893 edition of New England Magazine.   The article mentioned many men and women, including Eliza Allen Starr,  Olive Thorne Miller, Amanda T. Jones, Harriet Monroe, and Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  Payne praised Fearing's work as "remarkable" and, speaking of her poem "In The City By The Lake," he noted: "A note of song stronger and more sustained has hardly been sounded by any other American woman" (696).  Readers of New England Magazine would have known of Lillian, since she had published "The Bivouac of Sherman's Army" in that periodical's August 1890 issue.

In 1894, Lillian wrote a piece for Chicago Woman's Times about the need for a different title than Miss for adult single women.  She noted that males are called master and then Mr., but that females are addressed as Miss until they are married.  She was perturbed that it took marriage to allow a woman to have a mature adult title.  Lillian's words were reprinted in the March 10, 1894 edition of The Caldwell Tribune (Idaho Territory), giving her thoughts an even larger audience.

Throughout her life, Lillian received praise in the press for her work as a lawyer, her writing, and her phenomenal work ethic.  The Irish Standard's characterization of her serves as a fine example of the admiration Lillian's contemporaries had for her: 

"Miss Blanche Fearing is a graduate of the Chicago Law School and surely finding her way to a successful legal career.  She is a poet, also, but her verses do not begin with 'whereases' or 'know all men,' etc., but are marked by the true poetic quality.  Miss Fearing's profession means a livelihood to her.  Her literary work is the overflow of her life.  When it is known that Miss Fearing is entirely blind, the courage, enthusiasm, and perseverance that her work in these two lines exhibits fill one with admiration for the beauty and strength of character that so triumph over untoward circumstances and make life so noble, useful and sweet."

She was very fortunate to have a supportive family.  According to the Republican News Item, Lillian's mother and sister played the crucial role of reading legal documents to her.  

Lillian's image and a discussion about her were included in "Women Lawyers of America," a lengthy December 13, 1896, article in The San Francisco Call.   Others noted included local lawyer Clara Shortridge Foltz, Myra Bradwell, Ellen A. Martin, Kate Pier, Ada Miser Kepley, Ella Humphrey Haddock, and Cornelia Hood.

On March 21, 1900, The Western News dedicated an article, "Blind From Infancy: This Girl is Now Widely Known as a Writer and Lawyer."  While the use of the word "girl" must not have pleased Lillian, she must have been happy to hear that the paper had written about her and called her "a dual success in her dual professions of author and lawyer."

Unfortunately, Lillian passed away in Eureka Heights, Illinois, later that year.  When she died on August 13, 1900, this courageous woman was just thirty-six years old.