Dodge, Mary Abigail

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DODGE, Mary Abigail

Born 31 March 1833, Hamilton, Massachusetts; died 17 August 1896, Hamilton, Massachusetts

Wrote under: Gail Hamilton

Daughter of James B. and Hannah Stanwood Dodge

Mary Abigail Dodge spent her early adult years teaching, and in 1858 she became governess to the children of Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the antislavery National Era in Washington, D.C. With his help she established herself as a writer. From 1865 to 1867, she was an editor of Our Young Folks. After 1871 she spent much of each year in Washington in the home of Congressman James G. Blaine, whose wife was Dodge's first cousin. Blaine was Speaker of the House and a frequent presidential hopeful. In his household, Dodge met politicians, writers, and numerous famous persons of the day. In these years, she wrote on political issues, especially civil service reform.

The literary style of Gail Hamilton, Dodge's pen name, is characteristically lively, opinionated, and often argumentative. Several of her books are feminist in tone. Dodge often proclaims her personal and professional independence, and encourages a similar spirit in others. Country Living and Country Thinking (1861), based upon Dodge's experience as a woman running her family's farm, urges women to consider careers other than marriage, and especially to consider writing, despite the "fine, subtle, impalpable, but real" prejudice against "female writers." The economic argument for independence appears again in Woman's Worth and Worthlessness (1872), in which Dodge notes that a woman is not "supported" by a man "when she works as hard in the house as he does out of it."

For many years, Dodge was closely associated with Blaine: she worked with him on his Twenty Years of Congress (1884-86) and many believed that she also drafted his speeches. Her biography of Blaine, undertaken as a tribute, is eulogistic and nonanalytical. Her verse, collected and published posthumously by her sister H. Augusta Dodge, in Chips, Fragments and Vestiges (1902), is derivative.

Dodge's most characteristic theme, derived from her own experience as a writer, is the need to train woman for spiritual and economic independence. Given her insistence on the need for independence, it seems ironic that Dodge's own career, as well as her social contacts, depended to a great degree upon her association with Blaine, and that much of her work for him cannot be recognized as independent from that framework.

Other Works:

Courage! (1862). Gala Days (1863). A Call to My Countrywomen (1863). Stumbling-Blocks (1864). A New Atmosphere (1865). Scientific Farming (1865). Skirmishes and Sketches (1865). Red Letter Days in Applethorpe (1866). Summer Rest (1866). Wool Gathering (1868). Woman's Wrong (1868). Memorial to Mrs. Hannah Stanwood Dodge (1869). A Battle of the Books (1870). Little Folk Life (1872). Child World (1873). Twelve Miles from a Lemon (1874). Nursery Noonings (1875). Sermons to the Clergy (1876). First Love Is Best (1877). What Think Ye of Christ (1877). Our Common School System (1880). Divine Guidance (1881). The Spent Bullet (1882). The Insuppressible Book (1885). A Washington Bible Class (1891). English Kings in a Nutshell (1893). Biography of James G. Blaine (1893). X-Rays (1896). Gail Hamilton's Life in Letters (edited by H. A. Dodge, 1901).


Beale, H. S., ed., Letters of Mrs. James G. Blaine (1908). Dodge, M. A., Memorial to Mrs. Hannah Stanwood Dodge (1869). Spofford, H. R., A Little Book of Friends (1916). Tryon, W. S., Parnassus Corner: A Life of James T. Fields (1963).

Reference Works:

A Woman of the Century (1893). NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995).


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Dodge, Mary Abigail

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