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

By Deborah C. De Rosa | Go to book overview

HANNAH AND MARY TOWNSEND
(DEFINITIVE DATES UNAVAILABLE)

In Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830—1865, I attributed The Anti-Slavery Alphabet1 (1847), a unique text for educating children and encouraging them to become abolitionists, to Hannah Townsend Longstreth (1801–1865), the daughter of Joseph Townsend and Elizabeth Clark, and the wife of Daniel Longstreth. Hannah Townsend (Longstreth) helped Benjamin Lundy edit Elizabeth Margaret Chandler’s collection, The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler. However, recently recovered materials suggest that she did not author the alphabet book. Rather, according to Doris O’Keefe (senior cataloger for Rare Books at the American Antiquarian Society), the January 29, 1847, issue of William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator attributes The Anti-Slavery Alphabet to Hannah and Mary Townsend, Quakers of Philadelphia. Hannah (born on July 17, 1812) and Mary (born on May 14, 1814) were the daughters of Charles Townsend and Priscilla Kirk (O’Keefe; Stone 617). Since Charles was Joseph’s brother, Hannah and Mary were cousins to Hannah Townsend (Longstreth). The Townsends had a long and complex family history, which began with Bartholomew Longstreth, a Quaker who left England and settled in Pennsylvania in 1699 (Jordan 1532). The complex, weblike Townsend and Longstreth family tree is best left to genealogists like John Jordan.

Hannah and Mary Townsend’s The Anti-Slavery Alphabet1 represents a unique example of the materials that domestic abolitionists published. Parents who purchased this alphabet book at both the 1846 and 1847 Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Fairs were perhaps not surprised by this atypical approach that indoctrinates children into activism. Hannah and Mary Townsend’s opening poetic plea, “To Our Little Readers,” suggests that children have the power to fight slavery by speaking to their friends,

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