Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

By Denise D. Knight | Go to book overview
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LIZETTE WOODWORTH REESE (1856-1935)

Denise D. Knight


BIOGRAPHY

The lyric poet Lizette Woodworth Reese was born along with her twin sister, Sophie, on January 9, 1856, in Waverly, Maryland, during one of the worst snowstorms of the season. Her father, David Reese, was of Welsh ancestry; her mother, Louisa Gabler, was a native of Saxony, Germany. As a child she read and enjoyed Poe "The Raven" and developed an appreciation of such English writers as Shakespeare, Emily Brontë, Thackeray, and Hardy. Her favorite American poets included Whittier and Emerson. Reese eschewed the writings of Wordsworth and Tennyson, whose wordiness she found boring. In 1873, she graduated from Eastern High School in Baltimore and, at the age of seventeen, began a career in teaching at St. John's Parish School in Waverly. From that point on, she enjoyed dual careers as both teacher and poet. Her first poem, "The Deserted House," was published in Southern Magazine in June 1874. From 1877 until 1881, Reese taught at a black high school in Baltimore. It was also in 1877 that her first of fourteen books, A Branch of May, was published. By the age of thirty-two, Reese was receiving public accolades for her poetry; in 1890, she became one of the founding members of the Women's Literary Club in Baltimore, where she served as chair of the poetry section until her death some forty-five years later. Her most famous poem, "Tears," appeared in Scribner's in 1899, and in 1901, she began a twenty-year stint as an English teacher at Western High School in Baltimore. In 1922, the year following her retirement from forty-eight years of teaching, Reese became honorary president of the Edgar Allan Poe Society in Baltimore, a post she held until her death. On the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday, Reese published A Victorian Village: Reminiscences of Other Days ( 1929), and in 1931, she won the Mary L. Keats

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