Dall, Caroline Wells (1822–1912)

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Dall, Caroline Wells (1822–1912)

American author, reformer, and women's rights advocate . Name variations: Caroline H. Dall. Born Caroline Wells Healey in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 22, 1822; died in Washington, D.C., on December 17, 1912; married Charles H.A. Dall (a Unitarian minister), in September 1844 (some sources cite 1843); children: two, including William Healey Dall (b. 1845, a naturalist and author).

Selected writings:

Essays and Sketches (1849); Woman's Right to Labor (1860); Historical Pictures Retouched (1860); The College, the Market, and the Court; or, Woman's Relations to Education, Labor, and Law (1867); Egypt's Place in History (1868); Patty Gray's Journey to the Cotton Islands (a three-volume children's book, 1868–1870); The Romance of the Association; or, One Last Glimpse of Charlotte Temple and Eliza Wharton (1875); My First Holiday; or, Letters Home from Colorado, Utah, and California (1881); What We Really Know about Shakespeare (1886); Sordello—a History and a Poem (1886); Barbara Fritchie—a Study (1892); Margaret and Her Friends (1895); Transcendentalism in New England (1897); Alongside (a privately printed memoir of her childhood, 1900); Nazareth (1903); Fog Bells (1905).

Born into a well-to-do family, the intellectually gifted Caroline Wells Healey began contributing essays on religion and moral issues to various periodicals by age 13. Her father provided her with an excellent private-school education

in hopes that she would pursue a literary career, but Dall was more interested in religion and working with the underprivileged. At age 15, she started one of the first nursery schools for working mothers in Boston. At 19, a year before her father went bankrupt, she was invited to participate in Margaret Fuller 's public conversations. Fuller, a Transcendentalist, held her famous Conversations while she was in Boston between 1839–40. The participants, a who's who of eminent Bostonians, met regularly and discussed such topics as mythology, art, ethics, health, education, great men, and women's rights. Heavily influenced by Fuller, Dall would later recount the experience in Margaret and Her Friends (1895).

In 1844, after serving for several years as a vice-principal of a girls' school in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., Caroline married Charles Dall, a Unitarian minister. Over the next decade, she taught, lectured, raised two children, and served as a corresponding editor of Paulina Wright Davis ' women's rights monthly, The Una. In 1849, Dall published a collection of her own early writings called Essays and Sketches. Her marriage was not happy, and in 1855 Charles left to become the first Unitarian missionary to Calcutta, India. From then on, the couple lived apart except for occasional visits.

Left on her own, Dall threw her efforts behind the women's rights cause but found that she was unsuited to public leadership. She turned once again to writing and produced an impressive body of work that included histories, biographies, and children's books, all of which were well received. Much of her writing focused on the progress of the women's movement and many of her papers were read at the annual Woman's Rights Conventions. Her best-known book, The College, the Market, and the Court, went through two editions. In an essay on sex and education written in 1874, Dall pointed out the necessity for women to fit their intellectual pursuits into lives of family responsibilities: "So far, women have written in the nursery or the dining room, often with one foot on the cradle. They must provide for their households, and nurse their sick, before they can follow any artistic or intellectual bent."

For many years, Dall conducted a class in literature and morals from her home in Washington, D.C. In 1865, she founded the American Social Science Association, of which she served as director and vice president. She died on December 17, 1912, in Washington.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Dall, Caroline Wells (1822–1912)

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Dall, Caroline Wells (1822–1912)