Dall, Caroline (Wells) Healey

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DALL, Caroline (Wells) Healey

Born 22 June 1822, Boston, Massachusetts; died 17 December 1912, Washington, D.C.

Daughter of Mark and Caroline Foster Healey; married CharlesAppleton Dall, 1844 (died 1886); children: son and a daughter

Daughter of a prosperous Boston merchant who had "desired a son" and was "determined I should supply the place of one," Caroline Healey Dall received a thorough education and was devoted to her father until her desire to spend her life in charitable and religious work conflicted with her father's desire that she pursue a literary career. Her marriage to Reverend Dall produced a son and a daughter but the union was not happy. In 1855 he went as a Unitarian missionary to India, where he remained, except for occasional visits, until his death in 1886.

Dall helped Pauline Wright Davis organize the woman's rights convention in Boston in 1855, and she organized and delivered one of the principal addresses at the 1859 New England woman's rights convention, also in Boston. She was one of the founders of the American Social Science Association.

Essays and Sketches (1849) collects Dall's early essays on moral and religious subjects, which had been published in newspapers and periodicals since she was thirteen. In Liberty Bell (1847), another collection of her writings, she holds, in contrast to her later writings and actions, that political activity for women is "utterly incompatible with the more previous and positive duties of the nursery and the fireside." A series of nine lectures, delivered between 1859 and 1862, was described in the New York Evening Post as "the most eloquent and forcible statement of the Woman's Question which has been made."

Dall calls for the removal of educational and legal barriers so that each human being can fully develop, and insists on a woman's right to work and to receive equal pay for equal work: "If low wages, by actually starving women and those dependent upon them, force many into vicious courses, so does the want of employment lower the whole moral tone, and destroy even the domestic efficiency of those whose minds seek variety and freedom. More than once have I been to insane asylums with young girls whom active and acceptable employment would have saved from mania; and scores of times have young women of fortune asked me, 'What can you give me to do?' And to this question there is, in the present state of the public mind no possible answer." Her convincing historical analysis, well supplied with examples, shows women have "since the beginning of civilization" shared the hardest and most unwholesome work, that they have been the worst paid, and that their efforts to find "new avenues of labor" (e.g., efforts to train women as watchmakers) have often been met "by the selfish opposition of man." She feels that such opposition will be overcome and that all the work woman asks for "will inevitably be given."

A consistent advocate of coeducation and higher education for women, Dall responded to Dr. Edward H. Clarke's book Sex in Education (1873), in which he claimed women's health could not withstand the strain of a college education. Her review affirms her belief that no "greater difference of capacity, whether physical or psychical, will be found between man and woman than is found between man and man," that a proper coeducational system will make possible the fullest development of both sexes, and that "whatever danger menaces the health of America, it cannot, thus far, have sprung from the overeducation of her women." She calls upon women, "contented in ignominious dependence, restless even to insanity from the need of healthy employment and the perversion of their instincts, and confessedly looking to marriage for salvation," to "make thorough preparation for trades or professions" and to abide by the consequences of their resolutions.

Dall was, in later years, a prolific writer of obituary tributes, devotional pamphlets, genealogical studies, and quasihistorical works.

Other Works:

What We Really Know About Shakespeare (1855). Woman's Right to Labor; or Low Wages and Hard Work (1860). A Practical Illustration of "Woman's Right to Labor"; or, A Letter from Marie E. Zakrzewska (edited by Dall, 1860). Historical Pictures Retouched (1860). Woman's Rights Under the Law (1861). Sunshine; A New Name for a Popular Lecture on Health (1864). The Bible Story Told for Children (1866). Nazareth (1866). The College, the Market, and the Court (1867). Egypt's Place in History (1868). Patty Gray's Journey: From Boston to Baltimore (1869). From Baltimore to Washington (1870). On the Way; or, Patty at Mount Vernon (1870). Genealogical Notes and Errata to Savage's Genealogical Dictionary (1873). Sex and Education (1874). The Romance of the Association (1875). The Whittingham Genealogy (1880). My First Holiday (1881). Sordello: A History and A Poem (1886). The Life of Dr. Anandabai Joshee (1888). Barbara Fritchie (1892). Otis; The Story of an Old House (1892). Margaret and Her Friends (1895). In Memoriam. Susan Wadden Turner et al. (1896). Transcendentalism in New England (1897). In Memoriam, Alexander Wadsworth (1898). Alongside (1902). Memorial to Charles Henry Appleton Dall (edited by Dall, 1902). Of "Lady Rose's Daughter" (1903). The Story of a Boston Family (1903). Fog Bells (1904). Charles Lowell, Pastor…of the West Church, Boston (1907).

The papers of Caroline Healey Dall are in the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe College, and at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.


Buell, L., Literary Transcendentalism (1973). Conrad, S. F., Perish the Thought: Intellectual Women in Romantic America, 1830-1860 (1971). Leach, W., True Love and Perfect Union: The Feminist Reform of Sex and Society (1980). Riegel, R. E., American Feminists (1963). Stanton, E. C. et al., History of Woman Suffrage (1881).

Reference Works:

NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).

Other reference:

HLB (Oct. 1974). New England Quarterly (March 1969).


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