Writer Revives an `Erased' Abolitionist

By Bowean, Lolly | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Writer Revives an `Erased' Abolitionist


Bowean, Lolly, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Her colleagues say she's brilliant, her students say she's strict, and her fans say she's knowledgeable. But she thinks she was just born to teach.

Biographer Carolyn Karcher, a Temple University professor and literary scholar, is used to enlightening people with her knowledge about history and literature.

With the recent publication of her fifth book, "A Lydia Maria Child Reader," Mrs. Karcher has aimed to illuminate the life of an impressive woman who has been left out of many history books. "Reader" contains essays, stories, letters, advice columns and other writings by Mrs. Child, an anti-slavery crusader of the mid-1800s.

More than 25 people gathered last week at the Market 5 Gallery in Eastern Market to hear Mrs. Karcher read from her new book and to get autographed copies of the work. "Reader" is dedicated to her husband, Martin, to whom she has been married for 32 years.

Though born in Washington in 1945, Mrs. Karcher grew up in Tokyo, where she attended the American School of Japan. She returned to the United States in 1962 to attend Stanford University in California.

"I met my husband at Stanford and ended up leaving before finishing," she says. "On my resume, it says `attended,' but I actually left to be with him."

She later traveled to Paris, where she earned a degree in political science at the Institut de'Etudes Politiques in 1965. She also holds a master's degree in English from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in American studies from the University of Maryland.

"I wanted to teach, but I didn't have the credentials, so I had to go back to school," Mrs. Karcher says, adding that she began research on Mrs. Child while working on her master's degree.

"What drew me to her was when I was reading about slavery," she says. "This was back in the 1960s, when the civil rights movement was taking place and there was the war in Vietnam. Our cities were burning down because of the riots."

"I wanted to know why all this was happening, so I started reading black literature. After I began reading more about these topics, I looked for an activist woman to read about, and I chose her. As I began to read about her, I wanted to know more and more, but very little had been written about her."

The dearth of books on Mrs. Child prompted Mrs. Karcher to research the abolitionist and eventually write a book about her. In fact, four of the five books she has written have been about Mrs. Child and her achievements. Mrs. Karcher began compiling "Reader" several years ago. …

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