Soule, Caroline White

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SOULE, Caroline White

Born 3 September 1824, Albany, New York; died 6 December 1903, Glasgow, Scotland

Also wrote under: Aunt Carra

Daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Merselis White; married Henry B. Soule, 1843 (died 1852); children: five

Despite her family's limited means, Caroline White Soule was educated at the Albany Female Academy, from which she graduated with high honors at seventeen. Soule, like others in her family a member of the Universalist church, took a job as principal of the female department of the Clinton Liberal Institute, a secondary school operated by that church in Clinton, New York. She taught for only two terms before marrying a Universalist minister, with whom she made frequent moves from one parish to another. Henry Soule died of small pox in 1852, leaving Caroline with five small children. She immediately wrote The Memoir of Rev. H. B. Soule, published the following summer. The anguish and grief of Soule's loss come through the simply told narration of his life.

Soule supported her family as a part-time teacher and, increasingly, as a contributor of stories and articles to various story-papers and magazines. In 1853 Soule migrated to Boone County, Iowa. In Iowa, she became western editor of the Ladies Repository, and her stories and novellas appeared at regular intervals.

A serious eye ailment forced Soule to return to the East for treatment in 1864. She did not resume editorial work until 1868, when she founded and edited the Guiding Star, a Sunday school paper. She was also children's editor for the Christian Leader and contributed to other Universalist papers under several pseudonyms, one of which was "Aunt Carra." Soule helped to found what became the Woman's Centenary Association, the first national organization of churchwomen in the U.S.; she was its president from 1869 to 1880. From an office in New York City, she ran fund raising activities netting the organization over $100,000 in five years, a substantial sum for that time.

Her activities for the association undermined her health, and Soule went for a visit to England and Scotland to recuperate. She interrupted her rest many times, however, to lecture on temperance and the higher education of women. She helped organize a Scottish Universalist Convention and finally became minister ofSt. Paul's Universalist in Glasgow; she was officially ordained in 1880. Soule remained in Scotland for the rest of her life except for a period between 1882 and 1886 when she again worked for the Centenary Association in the U.S.

Soule's stories appeared in the 1850s, the era of the sentimental novel, when many women writing for the numerous weeklies and monthlies were also pleading the various causes of women's rights, abolition, and temperance. Home Life; or, A Peep across the Threshold (1855) is a collection of Soule's "little moral tales" published by a Universalist publisher. Soule intended Wine or Water (1862) as a novel, but it is really three separate tales loosely bound by the moral thread of its temperance theme.

Soule's moral tales are notable for their emphasis on the virtues of happy home life as a bulwark against vice and degradation. She wrote in the preface to Home Life, "we wrote of home-life…because we have thought much on the secret influences which gladden or madden human homes…that if a peep across the threshold showed a happy home—…we might cross the sacred steppingstone and look thence upon a world of beauty, peace, and joy."

Soule's concern for nurture and education was lifelong, and her stories and novellas illustrate her sensitive and sensible ideas on the raising of children. In "The Only Daughter," for example, she criticizes parents who raise children with no useful skills, no healthful sports in their daily activity, and no appropriate discipline. In Wine or Water, she describes the type of family life she hoped to inspire in her readers: "both parents were yet firm in their requirements, and as they never were forgot, as too many do, that their children were not yet men and women, but simple-hearted little ones, their commands were suited to their varied ages and dispositions, and their home was thus a fair type of the Christian's thought of heaven, care with comfort for an accompaniment, labor made light by love."

Much of Soule's writing exhibits the flowery sentimentality and effusive moralizing of the late 19th century. A thread of common sense and down-to-earth intelligence, however, pervades her sermonizing and exemplifies her lifelong concern for home and family. She summed up her own life by writing: "I have written everything from a sermon to a song, and done everything from making sorghum molasses in a log cabin on a prairie to preaching three times a Sunday in the city of London."

Other Works:

The Pet of the Settlement (1860).

Some letters and papers of Caroline W. Soule are at the New York Public Library.


Reference works:

Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1900). Daughters of America (1883). NAW (1971). Our Woman Workers (1882).