Shindler, Mary Dana

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Born 15 February 1810, Charleston, South Carolina; died 1883, Texas

Wrote under: Mary S. B. Dana, Mrs. Mary S. B. Dana Shindler

Daughter of B. M. and Mary S. Palmer; married Charles E. Dana, 1830; R. D. Shindler

Mary Dana Shindler's life was beset with tragedies; she lost sister, brother, son, and husband in the span of a few years. Each of these deaths is commemorated by a poem in her collection The Parted Family, and Other Poems (1842). These poems reflect how religion enabled Shindler to survive and, not surprisingly, became the dominant theme of her life.

With her first husband, she lived on the Mississippi River in Bloomington, Iowa Territory. After Dana's death, Shindler returned to Charleston; later, she lived in other areas of the South, including Texas, where she composed the U.S. Labor Greenback Songbook in 1879. Her writing includes poetry, novels, essays on religion and spiritualism, and, most importantly, Letters Addressed to Relatives and Friends Chiefly in Reply to Arguments in Support of the Doctrine of the Trinity (1846), which traces her conversion from Calvinism to Unitarianism. Shindler's later marriage to R. D. Shindler, an Episcopal clergyman, initiated another conversion, to his faith, and produced A Southerner Among the Spirits: A Record of Investigations into Spiritual Phenomena (1877).

Shindler's novels, directed mostly toward a young audience, never gained the popularity of her poetry. Charles Morton; or, The Young Patriot: A Tale of the American Revolution (1843) is pure romantic history motivated by convenience and circumstance. The seagoing adventures, The Young Sailor (1843) and Forecastle Tom; or, The Landsman Turned Sailor (1846), are both moral tales; Forecastle Tom becomes a sailor missionary.

The religion permeating Shindler's life also fills her poetry, as does the lavish description of her southern homeland. Her collections The Southern Harp, The Northern Harp, and The Western Harp (published in the 1830s and 1840s) were all well-received, and her poetry found its way into many newspapers and magazines, including particularly the New York Observor and the Augusta Mirror.

Although Shindler's contributions are minor and often sentimental, they reflect a mind constantly challenging its own earlier assumptions and exploring the limitless possibilities of both the natural and the supernatural worlds.


Reference works:

Daughters of America; or, Women of the Century (1883). Index to Women of the World from Ancient to Modern Times (1970, incorrect entry).