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

By Deborah C. De Rosa | Go to book overview

ANNA H. RICHARDSON
(DATES UNKNOWN)

Like Amelia Opie, her British foremother who wrote twenty years earlier, Anna Richardson made significant contributions to abolitionist juvenile literature. Little biographical information has surfaced about Anna Richardson except that she lived at 54 Westmoreland Terrace in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northeast England. However, Little Laura, the Kentucky Abolitionist: An Address to the Young Friends of the Slave (1859) reveals a politically active woman willing to raise funds for American abolitionism.

Addressed to the children of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Little Laura documents the true story of a ten-year-old American girl’s abolitionist efforts. With her parents and her elder siblings as her role models, Laura B. advocates abolitionism through both written and oral rhetoric. From their Kentucky home, Laura’s family publishes an antislavery newspaper, even after a mob burns the press to silence its abolitionist message. Laura “learned to handle type” (308), which symbolizes her role in perpetuating this written, abolitionist rhetoric that situates her in a public, political discourse from which females were often excluded (De Rosa 145–146). When Laura becomes ill and can no longer help at the press, she transforms her written discourse (as an assistant in her father’s press) into oral, political discourse when she enrolls in the local school. Laura’s classmates (whose parents own slaves) scoff at her abolitionism, but by degrees they accept Laura’s ideas and voice compassion for the slaves. Thus, Laura resembles “her foremothers who challenged the ideology of separate spheres by writing for abolitionist newspapers and speaking publicly despite criticism” (De Rosa 146).

Richardson’s Little Laura not only invites abolitionist consciousness but also requests activism—monetary donations to support the family’s con-

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