Into the Mouths of Babes: An Anthology of Children's Abolitionist Literature

By Deborah C. De Rosa | Go to book overview

SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE
(OCTOBER 24, 1788-APRIL 30, 1879)

Poet, novelist, editor, and author of children’s literature, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale represents one of the earliest recovered American women to reference slavery in children’s literature. In sharp contrast to domestic abolitionists who subsequently created images of victimized slave children, abolitionist mother-historians, or abolitionist children, Hale expressed an indecisive position about slavery in her children’s fiction. She embodies the Republican mother who encouraged children toward patriotism, not abolitionism.

Hale was born in Newport, New Hampshire, to Gordon Buell (a captain during the Revolutionary War) and Martha Whittlesey Buell. M. Sarah Smedman states that “[s]ubsequently studying Latin, philosophy, English, and classical literature with her brother Horatio, then a student at Dartmouth …, Hale acquired the equivalent of a college degree, a rare possession for a woman of her day. She put her talents to use [teaching] in a Newport private school” (209). In 1813, at the age of twentyfive, she married David Hale, a lawyer and Freemason, with whom she had five children. He encouraged Hale’s writing and self-education. After his death in 1822, the Freemasons opened a millinery business to help Hale support herself; however, she left the business because she could earn an income from writing.

Hale’s prolific literary production stemmed from her intent to use literature “to teach truth and to build character while imparting pleasure through story and verse” (Smedman 209). She published her first book of poems, The Genius of Oblivion, and Other Orignal Poems in 1823; however, her first novel, Northwood: A Tale of New England (1827), “the first American novel by a woman” (Smedman 209), secured her career as an author. Hale also served as editor for the Ladies’ Magazine and Literary

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