Acosta de Samper, Soledad (1833–1913)

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Acosta de Samper, Soledad (1833–1913)

Colombian journalist and novelist who wrote more than 45 historical romances, including Los Piratas en Cartagena. Name variations: Soledad Samper; (pseudonyms) Bertilda Aldebarán, Olga Aldebarán. Born Soledad Acosta on May 5, 1833, in Bogotá, Colombia; died on March 17, 1913, in Colombia; daughter of Joaquín Acosta (a Colombian scholar and politician) and Caroline Kemble Acosta; married José Maria Samper, in 1855; children: four daughters.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Soledad Acosta was the only child of Joaquín Acosta, a South American with political aspirations, and Caroline Kemble Acosta , who was born in England. At the Acosta home in Guaduas, prominent figures from governmental, scientific, and cultural Colombian circles came to spend time with Joaquín, a popular and influential scholar. During these visits, Joaquin's daughter sat close by, soaking up the conversations. Though she was not close with her English-teacher mother, Soledad let her father influence her education and interests; his political stature accounts heavily for her superior education, an uncommon accomplishment for a Colombian woman of the early 19th century. At 12, she traveled to Nova Scotia with her father and was schooled in Halifax for a year. Then, beginning in 1846, she went to Paris for three more years of formal education.

Back in Colombia, she met José Maria Samper, who edited the journal El Neo-Granadino (The New Granadan). They were married in 1855. Within two years, the Sampers welcomed two daughters. A productive writer and liberal politician, José was of the opinion that women were inferior and best suited for homemaking. Though he recognized exceptions, including his wife and his sister, he remained convinced that females largely had little to offer outside the home. Soledad, however, thought the sexes to be equal, particularly if women were allowed the same educational opportunities as men. Nevertheless, she consciously avoided publicly dis-agreeing with her husband. This avoidance strongly influenced her writing; she chose subjects that presented no opportunity for comparison with her husband's writing.

Her literary career began in José's journal, with translations from the French of George Sand and Alexander Dumas. In 1858, the family left Colombia because the country had grown hostile to their liberal views. First they traveled to Europe, where Soledad began writing fashion, drama, and literary reviews, as well as travel columns, for journals back in Bogotá. They then left Europe for Peru, where José and Soledad coedited Revista Americana (American Review). By the time they returned to Colombia in 1863, the family had grown to four daughters, and Soledad had turned her literary sights away from journalism. Drawing on her homeland, but never on her own life, she began to write historical romances. Intensely private, she did not incorporate her personal experiences into her books, but rather the history of the country which she had learned, in part, from her father. Over the next four decades, she produced more than 45 books—in excess of one a year. She also helped found and edit La Mujer (Woman), the first periodical sustained exclusively by women, which ran from 1878 to 1881. In 1888, José Samper died. Soledad spent the following years writing and traveling to Europe. She died in 1913, two months before her 80th birthday.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts