Writing in the Sphere of Domesticity: Lydia Maria Child’s Works for Women and Children

Frontispiece from Letters of Lydia Maria Child, by Lydia Maria Child, collected and arranged by Harriet Winslow Sewall. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1883. Via HathiTrust / public domain.

Biography

Lydia Maria Child was a prolific American writer who had a profound influence in the nineteenth century and beyond. Born in Massachusetts in 1802, Child would grow up to be a strong proponent of abolitionism, Native American rights, and women’s rights.  As the Poetry Foundation describes Child in its biography on her, “[Child] was renowned in her day as a tireless crusader for truth and justice and a champion of excluded groups in American society.”  Some of Child’s most prominent works addressed what she saw as the “social ills” of the century and included Hobomok, A Tale of Early Time; An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans; and The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations(Discover more works from this author here.)

In addition to her socially progressive works, Lydia Maria Child also wrote many popular books for a more domestic setting.  In doing so, she addressed a growing need for reference books targeted at middle and lower class households and “was able to influence the idea of what it meant to be American and an American wife and woman.”  Her books for women included cookbooks, a book on household first-aid, and an advice book for mothers.  Additionally, Child wrote entertainment pieces targeted at juvenile readers.  In 1826, she founded the first American bimonthly magazine for children, and throughout her life, she continued producing works such as A Girl’s Own Book and Flowers for Children.  The Poetry Foundation described these works as “focused on American values” and “suited to children of a democratic republic.”  Hence, these pieces represent Child’s dedication to generating a distinctly American culture among children and young women in the early Republic. 

Lydia Maria Child died in 1880 after publishing over 50 books (in addition to her wealth of shorts stories, poems, and articles), and her legacy lives on today.  Below, I have listed some Child’s most significant works for women and children.  I have additionally provided some important later editions, secondary sources, and some of Child’s archival holdings, if anyone is interested in learning more. 

Biographical Sources:

Poetry Foundation, New-York Historical Society Museum and Library, Britannica

First Editions

Child, Lydia Maria (An American Lady). Evenings in New England: Intended for Juvenile Amusement and Instruction. Boston, Cummings, Hilliard & Co., 1824. Text Link

—, editor. The Juvenile Miscellany. 1826-1834. Text Link

—. The Mother’s Book. Boston, Carter, Hendee and Babcock; Baltimore, Charles Carter, 1831. Text Link

—. The Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy. Boston, Marsh & Capen, and Carter & Hendee, 1829. Text Link

—. The Girl’s Own Book. Boston, Carter, Hendee and Babcock, 1832?

—. Tales for Youth. Boston, L.C. Bowles and B.H. Greene, 1832. Text Link

Title Page from The Juvenile Miscellany, by Lydia Maria Child. Boston: Putnam and Hunt, 1829. Via the Internet Archive / public domain.

LADIES’ FAMILY LIBRARY COLLECTION (1832-1835)

  1. —. The Biographies of Madame De Staël, and Madame Roland. Boston, Carter and Hendee, 1832 1832. 4 vols. Text Link
  2. —. The Biographies of Lady Russell, and Madame Guyon. Boston, Carter, Hendee & Co., 1832. 4 vols.
  3. —. Good Wives. Boston, Carter, Hendee and Co. and Allen and Ticknor, 1833. 4 vols. Text Link
  4. —. The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations. Boston, John Allen & Co., 1835. 4 vols. Text Link

—, and Massachusetts Medical Society. The Family Nurse; or, Companion of The Frugal Housewife. Boston, Charles J. Hendee, 1837. Text Link

FLOWERS FOR CHILDREN COLLECTION (1844-1846)

  • —. Flowers for Children. Part I, For Children Eight or Nine Years Old. New-York, C.S. Francis & Co.; Boston, J.H. Francis, 1844. 3 vols. Francis and Co.’s Little Library. Text Link      
  • —. Flowers for Children. Part II, For Children Four to Six Years Old. New-York, C.S. Francis & Co.; Boston, J.H. Francis, 1845. 3 vols. Francis and Co.’s Little Library. Text Link
  • —. Flowers for Children. Part III, For Children Eleven and Twelve Years of Age. New-York, C.S. Francis & Co.; Boston, J.H. Francis, 1846. 3 vols. Francis and Co.’s Little Library. Text Link
Title Page from Flowers for Children, Part I, by Lydia Maria Child. New York: C. S. Francis and Company, Boston: J. H. Francis, 1844. Via the Library of Congress / public domain.

—. Story of a Bird’s Nest. Boston, D. Lothrop & Co., 1880? Text Link

Later Editions

THE MOTHER’S BOOK

  • —. The Mother’s Book. 6th ed., New York, C.S. Francis & Co., Boston, J.H. Francis, 1844.
  • —. The Mother’s Book. 9th ed., London, T. Tegg & Son, 1838. Text Link

THE FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE

  • —. The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy. 16th ed., Boston, Boston, Carter, Hendee, & Co., 1835. Text Link

THE GIRLS’ OWN BOOK

Title Page from The Girl’s Own Book, by Lydia Maria Child. London: William Tegg and Company, 1858. Via HathiTrust / public domain.

  • —. The Girls’ Own Book. 1832? New York, Clark Austin & Co., 1833. Text Link
  • —. The Girl’s Own Book. 13th ed., Dublin, LeMessurier; Glasgow, Griffin; London, Tegg, 1844.
  • —. The Girl’s Own Book. 18th ed., London, William Tegg & Co., 1858. Text Link

LADIES’ FAMILY LIBRARY

  1. —. Memoirs of Madame de Staël, and of Madame Roland. New, rev and enlarged ed., New York and Boston, C.S. Francis and Company, 1854. Francis & Co.’s Cabinet Library of Choice Prose and Poetry. Text Link
  2. —. Biographies of Good Wives. 6th ed., New York, C.S. Francis and Company, 1855. Text Link
  3. —. Brief History of the Condition of Women: In Various Ages and Nations. 5th ed., New York, C.S. Francis and Company, 1854. Francis & Co.’s Cabinet Library of Choice Prose and Poetry. Text Link
Initial Page of Chapter 1 from The History of the Condition of Women, Vol. II, by Lydia Maria Child. Boston: Otis, Broaders and Company, 1840. Via the Internet Archive / public domain.

THE FAMILY NURSE

  • —, and Massachusetts Medical Society. The Family Nurse, or Companion of the American Frugal Housewife. 1837. Bedford, Applewood Books, 1997.

FLOWERS FOR CHILDREN

  • —. Flowers for Children. Omnibus ed., 1854, New York, C.S. Francis & Co.; Boston, J.H. Francis, 1854. Text Link
  • —. A New Flower for Children: For Children from Eight to Twelve Years Old. 1844-1846. New York, C.S. Francis, 1855. Text Link

Secondary Sources

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Baer, Helene G. The Heart Is Like Heaven: The Life of Lydia Maria Child. U Of Pennsylvania Press, 1964.

Holland, Patricia G. “Lydia Maria Child as a Nineteenth-Century Professional Author.” Studies in the American Renaissance, 1981, pp. 157-67.

Karcher, Carolyn L., and Lydia Maria Child. A Lydia Maria Child Reader. Durham, Duke University Press, 1997. New Americanists. Preview Link

—. The First Woman in the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child. Duke University Press, 1994. Preview Link

Klein, Lauren. “Lydia Maria Child and Archival Research.” New York Public Library, 12 June 2014, www.nypl.org/blog/2014/06/12/lydia-maria-child-research.

Linkon, Sherry L., editor. In Her Own Voice: Nineteenth-Century American Women Essayists. 1997. New York, Routledge, 2018. Preview Link

Osborne, William S. Lydia Maria Child. Boston, Twayne, 1980. Twayne’s United States Authors Serires.

Savant, Carroll Clayton. “The Destiny of Hope: The ‘Damned Mob’ of Women Activist Writers and the Indian Removal.” Feminist Resistance, www.sic-journal.org/ArticleView.aspx?aid=85.

Taylor, Lloyd C. “Lydia Maria Child: Biographer.” The New England Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, 1961, pp. 211–227. JSTOR.

—. To Make Men Free: An Interpretative Study of Lydia Maria Child. 1956. Lehigh University, dissertation.

ON CHILD’S WORKS FOR WOMEN AND CHILD

Hildegard Hoeller. “The Cost of the Gift: Gender and Labor in Lydia Maria Child’s Writings.” Legacy, vol. 34, no. 1, 2017, pp. 17–20. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5250/legacy.34.1.0017.

—. “A Quilt for Life: Lydia Maria Child’s The American Frugal Housewife.” American Transcendental Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 2, June 1999, pp. 89–104. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=1999020109&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Husband, Julie. “Anticipating Progressive Era Reformers: Lydia Maria Child and the Mothering State.” ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture, vol. 50, no. 4 [197], 2004, pp. 283–314. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/esq.2004.0000.

Karen L. Kilcup. “Fostering the Future: Lydia Maria Child’s Environmental Engagements in The Juvenile Miscellany and Beyond.” Legacy, vol. 34, no. 1, 2017, pp. 13–16. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5250/legacy.34.1.0013.

Lord, Susan Toth. “Women’s History, Women’s Empowerment: Lydia Maria Child’s Ladies Family Library Series.” Womanhood in Anglophone Literary Culture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Perspectives, edited by Robin Hammerman, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007, pp. 32–58. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2009380685&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Matter-Seibel, Sabina. “Native Americans, Women, and the Culture of Nationalism in Lydia Maria Child and Catharine Maria Sedgwick.” Early America Re-Explored: New Readings in Colonial, Early National, and Antebellum Culture, edited by Klaus H. Schmidt and Fritz Fleischman, Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 2000, pp. 411–440. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2000057008&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Taketani, Etsuko. “The ‘Omnipresent Aunt’ and the Social Child: Lydia Maria Child’s Juvenile Miscellany.” Children’s Literature: Annual of The Children’s Literature Association and The Modern Language Association Division on Children’s Literature, vol. 27, 1999, pp. 22–39. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=1999004300&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Archival Holdings

Lydia Maria Child’s collection of archival holdings is extensive for all of her writings and their various editions.  Here, I focused on the first-edition holdings of Child’s works for women and children (as I have listed above). 

Evenings in New England

Library of Congress, Dickinson College Library, Pennsylvania State University Library, Peabody Essex Museum, University of Florida

Juvenile Miscellany (3rd series, volume 4, number 3)

University of Albany, Salem Libraries, University of Chicago Library, American Heritage Center at University of Wyoming

The Mother’s Book

Howard University; Library of Congress, Winterthur Library, Hampton University, Morgan Library and Museum, New York Public Library System, Columbia University in the City of New York, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University Library, Yale University Library, The Strong, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brown University, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Ohio State University Libraries, Wellesley College, Boston College, University of Michigan, Miami University Libraries, Newberry Library, UW-Madison General Library System, University of Minnesota, University of Manitoba Libraries, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas Libraries, University of Utah, University of Alberta, Oregon State University Libraries, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Victoria Libraries, University of Washington Libraries, University of California at Davis

The Frugal Housewife

Library of Congress, Winterthur Library, University of Virginia, Columbia University in the City of New York, Yale University, Minuteman Library Network, University of Michigan, Indiana University, Minnesota Historical Society Library, Texas Woman’s University Library

The Girl’s Own Book

Cover of novel, from Lydia Maria Child, Girl’s Own Book (New York: Edward Kearney, 1843). From the Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University. Photograph by Hayley O’Brion.

University of Albany, New York Public Library System, The Strong, University of Florida, Huntington Library Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, Stanford University Libraries, George Mason University, Winterthur Library, Dickinson College Library, Princeton University Library, Brooklyn Public Library, City University of New York, Hunter College, Columbia University in the City of New York, Hofstra University Library, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University Library, Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum,

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Rare Books, University at Albany, SUNY Oswego, Brown University, Wheaton College, Queen’s University Documents Library at Kingston, Minuteman Library Network HCL Technical Services at Harvard College Library, Wayne State University, University of Notre Dame, Western Kentucky University, Atlanta History Center/Kenan Research Center, UW-Madison General Library System, Minnesota Historical Society Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Dallas Public Library, Texas Woman’s University Library, Denver Public Library, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Alberta, University of California Los Angeles, University of Washington Libraries

Tales for Youth

HCL Technical Services at Harvard College Library, University of California San Diego, University of Maryland Libraries, Columbia University in the City of New York, Virginia Tech Newman Library, Plymouth State University, McGill University Library, Morningside College, Concordia College Library, Tabor College Library, Dallas Theological Seminary, Pepperdine University Libraries, Biblioteca de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, IE Library, American University of Sharjah

Ladies’ Family Library Volumes

Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland Libraries, Library of Congress, University of Delaware Library, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, German Society of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, Princeton University Library, University of Virginia, New York Public Library System, Columbia University in the City of New York, Yale University Library, Wesleyan University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, University at Albany, Mount Holyoke College, McMaster University, College of the Holy Cross, Brown University, Wheaton College, Ohio State University Libraries, Western University, Brandeis University Library, Boston College, HCL Technical Services at Harvard College Library, Boston Athenaeum, University of Detroit Mercy, Bangor Public Library, Emory University, UW-Madison General Library System, University of Memphis, University of Miami, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Sam Houston State University, University of Alberta, The Claremont Colleges, Huntington Library Art Museum and Botanical Gardens

The Family Nurse

University of North Carolina at Greensboro Libraries, Laurier Library, Western University, Simon Fraser University Library, University of Wyoming, University of Groningen Library

Flowers for Children

  • Part 1: Library of Congress, New-York Historical Society Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, Yale University Library, Connecticut Historical Society, Dartmouth Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Vanderbilt University Library, University of Florida
  • Part 2: Library of Congress, New York Public Library System, New-York Historical Society Library, University of California at Los Angeles
  • Part 3: Cleveland Public Library, University of Michigan, UW-Madison General Library System

Story of a Bird’s Nest

Ohio State University Libraries, Virginia Tech Newman Library, Plymouth State University, Plymouth State University, McGill University Library, Morningside College, Concordia College Library, Dallas Theological Seminary, Biblioteca de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, IE Library

Adaptations

Lydia Maria Child’s poem “The New-England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day” (found in Volume II of Flowers for Children) was adapted into the popular song now known as “Over the River and Through the Woods.”  You can read more about her poem here, and you can see its original verse here.  The poem has also been adapted into a children’s picture book starting in 1974, with new editions still coming out today (see citations below).

“The New England Boy’s Song” from Flowers for Children, Part II, by Lydia Maria Child. New York: C. S. Francis and Company, Boston: J. H. Francis, 1845. Via the Library of Congress / public domain.

—, and Brinton Turkle. Over the River and Through the Wood. New York, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1974.

—, and Christopher Manson. Over the River and Through the Wood. New York, North-South Books, 2019.

To Read More Lydia Maria Child

Follow These Links: LibriVox, Internet Archives, Gutenberg Texts, Online Books Library

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