"A litterateur of New York City, whose work was mainly intended for juvenile readers," Josephine Pollard was a prolific and inventive writer. Her juvenile books include original fairytales, verses, natural histories, Bible stories, biographies, and histories. Pollard also wrote several volumes of poetry, including Coeducation (1883), a rhymed tract promoting equal rights for women.
Pollard's most inventive contribution to the field of juvenile literature was a series of books consisting almost entirely of words of one syllable. The few polysyllabic words are divided into syllables to help the young reader. The series includes The History of the United States (1884), Our Hero, General U.S. Grant (1885), Bible Stories for Children (1899), and many others. Pollard uses simplified words, but she does not simplify her ideas or sacrifice accuracy and detail. Pollard's rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, for example, loses none of the message of the biblical passage.
Pollard's poetry for adults, as exemplified by Vagrant Verses (1886), tends to be of the Edgar A. Guest school of philosophy and versification. "Don't Take It to Heart," a poem warning against nursing grudges, offers this insight: "There's many a sorrow would vanish tomorrow, / Were we not unwilling to furnish the wings; / So, daily intruding, and quietly brooding, / It hatches out all sorts of horrible things." "The Elder's Talk" is a dialect poem contrasting the pious wisdom of Nancy, the old country wife, with the cold, "college l'arnt" theology of the parson. "A Mother-Boy" is a paean to the youth who, despite his friends' scorn, remains tied to "the strong cable of mother's apron strings" for life. "A Commonplace Wooing" mocks the romantic and intellectual expectations of bluestocking maidens who want to be wooed with pages of "Emerson, Plato, Virgil and Cato." Pollard's model female here is "An Every-day Girl," who is described as "womanly, gentle, and kind, the least little bit of a prude."
Coeducation, Pollard's rhymed feminist tract, undercuts the conventional views of Vagrant Verses entirely. Divided into four chapters, the poem traces woman's history as a helpmate and slave, describes her present condition as a toy, and looks forward to her future as an equal. In biblical times, men and women worked together as partners. Woman was a respected part of early society: "Her wit was keen, her judgment clear, /And no one talked of woman's sphere." But woman was too keen and clever, and so envious man enslaved her through brute strength.
In modern times man uses woman as a toy, not a slave. Compliant to his wishes, woman dresses in velvet and silk and passes her time idly. Consequently, when her husband dies, the toy-woman, "upon her own resources thrown," cannot support herself.
Woman's future must lie in education and professional equality. Educated woman will have a career, and her husband will soon discover the cash benefit. The professional woman will have less time for her children, less leisure, and "an equal right to pay the bills." She will cleverly hide any disappointments from man, however, and will strive to remain equal.
Pollard's primary talent lies in writing instructional and entertaining books for children. Her commercial poetry is rather trite. Coeducation, while it may be doggerel, raises interesting issues and predicts a future that has not yet fully arrived.
Wild Animals for Children (circa 1850). Lydia's Duty (1869). The Open Door; or, Valera in Search of a Mission (1872). Gipsy in New York (1873). Gipsy's Early Days (1873). Gipsy's Travels (1874). Gipsy's Adventures (1875). Gipsy's Quest (1876). The Other Gipsy (1876). A Piece of Silver (1876). A Step, or a Mis-Step (1877). The Decorative Sisters, a Modern Ballad (1881). The Boston Tea Party (1882). The Burden Lifted (1882). Elfin Land (1882). Gellivor: A Christmas Legend of the North Land (1882). The Brave Little Tailor (1883). Good Manners: A Few Hints About Behavior (1883). Hours in Fairy Land (1883). Pantomime and Minstrel Scenes (1883). The Six Swans (1883). Snow White (1883). The Story of Bonnybelle (1883). Tales of the Fairy World (1883). Artistic Tableaux (1884). Songs of Bird Life (1885). Domestic Animals (1886). Large Birds (1886). Our Naval Heroes (1886). Pictures and Stories from Natural History (1886). Small Animals (1886). Small Birds (1886). Wild Animals (1886). Winter Sports (1886). Favorite Birds and What the Poets Sing of Them (1888). Flowers from Field and Woodland (1888). History of the Old Testament in Words of One Syllable (1888). Young Folk's Bible in Words of Easy Reading (circa 1888). The Bible and Its Story (1889). Boys and Girls Name A, B, C (1889). History of the Battles of America in Words of One Syllable (1889). Plays and Games for Little Folks (1889). Fireside Fun (1890). Little Pig Series (1890). Pleasewell Series (1890). Singing Games (1890). Sports of All Sorts (1890). Two Little Tots on Their Way Through the Year (1890). The Wonderful Story of Jesus (1890). Young Folks' Life of Jesus Christ (1891). The Life of George Washington (1893). The Boyhood of Jesus (1899). God Made the World (1899). The Good Samaritan and Other Bible Stories (1899). Ruth, a Bible Heroine, and Other Stories (1899). The Story of Jesus; Told in Pictures (1899). Sweet Stories of God (1899). The Children's Bible Story Book (1925). Everyday Bible Stories (1926). A Child's Life of Our Lord (1934).
Allibone, S. A., A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and American Authors Supplement (1891).