Alice Cary was born on April 26, 1820, on a farm in Hamilton County, Ohio. The nearby village, Mt. Healthy (formerly Mt. Pleasant), became the Clovernook of Cary's best-known short fiction. Cary was a prolific and popular writer; today, except for the critical attention brought to her short fiction by Judith Fetterley and her inclusion in a few anthologies, Cary's work has all but disappeared. In addition to Fetterley's work, only the biography of Mary Clemmer Ames and an article by Janice Goldsmith Pulsifer exist to call attention to her work.
Cary's biographers comment on what has been called the "Cary legend"-- Alice Cary's transformation from a shy, uneducated girl from a small farming community to a woman who, at the age of thirty, moved by herself to New York City, supported herself by her writing, and made her home the center of a thriving literary and social circle. It is these aspects of Cary's life, along with the death and deprivation that marked her early years, that provide some of the pervasive themes of her work.
Alice Cary was the fourth of nine children and the fourth daughter born to Robert and Elizabeth (Jessup) Cary. Although they did not have much formal education, both parents were literate; however, books were not plentiful in the Cary household. Among the books that were available was Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson, a popular novel of the time, which may have influenced Cary's fiction ( Fetterleyxv).
Cary's early years were marked by the death of family members. In 1833, Lucy and Rhoda, two of Cary's sisters, died; Cary's mother died in 1835. Fetterley marks the loss of Rhoda, two years older than Alice and the sister Cary felt closest to, as perhaps the most significant event in Cary's life. It was Rhoda