|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.