Dodge, Mary Abigail (1833–1896)

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Dodge, Mary Abigail (1833–1896)

American author who wrote under the name Gail Hamilton. Name variations: (pseudonym) Gail Hamilton. Born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, on March 31, 1833; died in Hamilton, Massachusetts, on August 17, 1896; third daughter and the last of seven children of James Brown (a farmer) and Hannah (Stanwood) Dodge; attended schools in Hamilton and Cambridge, Massachusetts; graduated from Ipswich Female Seminary, Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1850.

Selected writings:

Country Living and Country Thinking (1861); Courage! (1862); Gala Days (1863); A Call to My Countrywomen (1863); Stumbling-Blocks (1864); A New Atmosphere (1865); Scientific Farming (1865); Skirmishes and Sketches (1865); Red Letter Days in Applethorpe (1866); Summer Rest (1866); Wool Gathering (1868); Woman's Wrong (1868); Memorial to Mrs. Hannah Stanwood Dodge (1869); A Battle of the Books (1870); Little Folk Life (1872); Woman's Worth and Worthlessness (1872); Child World (1873); Twelve Miles from a Lemon (1874); Nursery Noonings (1875); Sermons to the Clergy (1876); First Love Is Best (1877); What Think Ye of Christ (1877); Our Common School System (1880); Divine Guidance (1881); The Spent Bullet (1882); The Insuppressible Book (1885); A Washington Bible Class (1891); English Kings in a Nutshell (1893); Biography of James G. Blaine (1893); X-Rays (1896); Gail Hamilton's Life in Letters (ed. H.A. Dodge, 1901); Chips, Fragments and Vestiges (ed. H.A. Dodge, 1902).

Mary Abigail Dodge, described by her mother Hannah as a stubborn child, graduated from the Ipswich Female Seminary at age 17 and embarked on a teaching career. After several successful years in the classroom, divided between her alma mater and schools in Hartford, Connecticut, Dodge wearied of the long hours and low wages and decided to try her hand at professional writing. In 1858, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she became the governess to the children of Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the antislaveryNational Era, to whom she had sent some of her early poetry and prose. It was Bailey who launched her writing career, which gained momentum after her work appeared in several prestigious publications, including the Atlantic Monthly. Around this time, in what would become a lifelong effort to avoid publicity, Dodge adopted the pen name of Gail Hamilton.

From 1860 to 1868, Dodge returned home to care for her ailing mother, during which time she published two collections of essays, Country Living and Country Thinking and A New Atmosphere. In addition to her writing, she worked as an assistant editor for the children's magazine Our Young Folks. In 1870, she published Battle of the Books, a fictionalized account of her break with her first publisher, Ticknor and Fields of Boston, who had paid her less than the customary 10% royalty. By the 1880s, Dodge's essays were so much in demand that she was asking $200 per article, regardless of length.

Dodge is most noted for her writings during the 1870s, when she spent much of each year in the home of Congressman James G. Blaine, whose wife was her first cousin. Blaine—who was speaker of the house, secretary of state, and the 1884 Republican presidential candidate—recognized Dodge's literary talent and put her to work as his political ghostwriter. She is credited with many of his speeches and worked with him on his book Twenty Years of Congress. There are some who believe that a series of columns she wrote for the New York Herald Tribune in 1877 were actually a cover for Blaine's opinions.

Dodge was known for her lively, witty, and opinionated style, and much of her work is feminist in viewpoint. Proclaiming her own personal and professional independence and encouraging it in others, she had little patience with the then fashionable trend that encouraged feminine frivolity or the pretense of helplessness. In her book Country Living and Country Thinking, based on her own experience in running her family farm, Dodge urges women to think of careers other than marriage. In Woman's Worth and Worthlessness, she points out that a woman is not "supported" by a man "when she works as hard in the house as he does out of it." Although Dodge strongly defended women's right to equal educational and occupational opportunities, she opposed suffrage on the grounds that it would be too much of a burden on women whose superior role was to provide spiritual guidance to the family and to society as a whole.

In 1895, Dodge was working on the Biography of James G. Blaine, when she suffered a paralytic stroke that left her unconscious for several weeks. She recovered sufficiently to dictate an account of the experience (X-Rays) before her death in August 1896.

suggested reading:

Dodge, H. Augusta, ed. Gail Hamilton's Life in Letters. Vol I and II. Lee and Shepard, 1901.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Dodge, Mary Abigail (1833–1896)

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