Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lydia Maria Child

Engraving of Lydia Maria Child
“Over the river and through the wood to grandmother’s house we go…”

This famous poem, a classic of the holiday season is one of the most well remembered poems relating to Thanksgiving. Natick has a surprisingly rich literary history for a town of our size. A number of world-famous authors have called Natick home for a period of time. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the renowned author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a frequent visitor; Horatio Alger Jr. spent much of his later life in Natick and is buried here. Lydia Maria Child, the author of the famous Thanksgiving poem quoted above, spent a little over a year of her life in Natick and visited several times afterwards. Though the famous house in question is in Medford, in honor of the Thanksgiving season we thought it would be appropriate to take a closer look at the life of this extraordinary woman with an interesting Natick connection. 

Lydia Maria Child was an influential writer and activist who took on several roles that were fairly uncommon for women at the time. She was heavily involved in a number of social movements including the fight to end slavery and campaigns for women’s rights and for the better treatment of Native Americans. Her initial writing provided advice for homemakers, but over time, Child’s determined political spirit entered into her literary works which alienated some of her more conservative readers. Today she is better known for her poetry, especially the poems she wrote for children.

Born Lydia Maria Francis in 1802 in Medford Massachusetts, Child eventually married David Lee Child at the age of twenty six and moved to nearby Wayland.  She was good friends with William Lloyd Garrison, the outspoken and sometimes controversial Boston abolitionist. Her father, David Convers, also eventually left their native Medford.  Following his wife’s death in 1814, David retired from work and soon began moving around to other local towns, including Natick.  David Francis lived in Natick for about four years, between 1836 and 1840. He lived at 20 Pleasant Street and was locally known as “Daddy Francis” to his fellow Natickites.  While her father was here, Lydia Maria Child came to live with him on Pleasant Street for a little over a year, staying with “Daddy Francis” from the spring of 1836 to the summer of 1837. Child continued to write during this period and two of her published works, a romance set in Ancient Greece titled Philothea, and a guide for Home Nurses, were produced while she lived in Natick.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving From All of Us
Here at the Natick Historical Society

Child had mixed feelings about Natick. While she admired the abolitionist spirit of the preacher who spoke at the Church in Natick Center, she found that many of her neighbors couldn’t match her progressive fervor. In a letter from 1836, Child says that she found in her Natick neighbors  “an absence of all intellectual excitement.” That said, in the same letter she still seems to have found the quiet and pleasant atmosphere of Natick to be “a good place to work.” Perhaps this “good place to work” was what inspired her to produce more pieces of writing, as she hadn’t produced any new works for two years prior to her stay here.

While living in, and later returning to visit Natick, Lydia Maria Child met many of the townspeople. According to some reports she was good friends with Henry Wilson, who had moved to town just a few years earlier in 1833 and often sought her advice. Surprisingly, Child did not seem to become acquainted with the other acclaimed female author of South Natick, who stayed with her in-laws at 2 Pleasant Street. Lydia Maria Child and Harriet Beecher Stowe did not meet until 1861, at a party in Weston, after Child had left Natick. The two women got along well, unsurprising, considering they were both authors and staunch abolitionists, yet somehow their paths never crossed in Natick even though they stayed in houses on the very same street.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hail to the Chief Elects Good Cheer

As part of our schedule of fall events, Natick Historical Society recently hosted a very special program titled "Hail to the Chief", partly funded by the Natick Cultural Council. This original musical play was put on by Boston-based theater group In Good Company. It  saluted presidential campaigns songs from throughout history by performing them with a very talented cast of twenty four actors and several musical accompanists. We were treated to a number of lively campaign songs including even the one for Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Wilson's running-mate. The performance was a lot of fun and we were glad to see so many members of our community come out and join us! For those of you who missed our program we've included some pictures from the event below.

To stay up to date on upcoming programs and events with Natick Historical Society, follow us on Facebook HERE or visit or website HERE