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

By Deborah C. De Rosa | Go to book overview

ELIZA LEE CABOT FOLLEN
(AUGUST 15, 1787-JANUARY 26, 1860)

Eliza Lee Cabot Follen, a prominent Bostonian,1 abolitionist, editor, biographer, novelist, poet, playwright, and children’s author, made significant contributions to abolitionist juvenile literature. Now remembered for “The Three Little Kittens” (in Little Songs 1833), Follen’s catalog of children’s literature includes The Well-Spent Hour (1827), Sequel to “The Well-Spent Hour”, or, The Birthday (1832), Hymns, Songs, and Fables, for Children (1846), Little Songs, for Little Boys and Girls (1833), The Liberty Cap (1846), Nursery Songs (1839), True Stories About Dogs and Cats (1856), May Morning and New Year’s Eve (1857), Twilight Stories (1858), a twelve-volume collection, and numerous other titles. She also edited The Child’s Friend from 1843 to 1850. Phyllis Moe states, “Although her children’s poetry is now almost forgotten, F[ollen] was a pioneer who turned from the harsh, morbid verse characteristic of early 19th-c. American children’s poetry to rhymes frankly meant to give more pleasure than instruction” (59). Amidst Follen’s pleasurable children’s stories and poems, one finds abolitionist juvenile fiction that contains critical statements about slavery using recurrent tropes of domestic abolitionist juvenile fiction, namely, the victimized slave child, the heroic slave mother, the abolitionist mother-historian, and the abolitionist child.

Eliza Follen participated in various abolitionist efforts despite the denunciation from opponents who called her a radical. As “an active member of abolitionist society both in Boston and Cambridge, she lectured … and helped to organize antislavery bazaars to raise funds for the cause” (Schlesinger 166). In addition, Follen wrote prolifically about slavery. She authored “To Mothers in the Free States” (1855); edited the abolitionist annual, The Liberty Bell; and contributed several hymns and songs to the Anti-Slavery Tract collection.2 Although literary critics and his

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