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Lowell, Maria White (1821–1853)

Lowell, Maria White (1821–1853)

American poet. Born Anna Maria White in Watertown, Massachusetts, on July 8, 1821; died, possibly of tuberculosis, at Elmwood, the Lowell home in Cambridge, on October 27, 1853; buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge; second daughter of five children of Abijah White (a cattle trader in the West Indies) and Anna Maria (Howard) White; along with her sisters, educated by a governess; attended the Ursuline Convent School in Charlestown; married James Russell Lowell (the poet), on December 26, 1844; sister-in-law of Mary Traill Spence Putnam ; children: Blanche Lowell (1845–1847); Mabel Lowell (b. 1847); Rose Lowell (1849–1849); Walter Lowell (1850–1852).

Maria White was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1821, the second daughter of five children of Abijah White, who had made his fortune as a cattle trader in the West Indies, and Anna Maria White . Both were Unitarians. With three of her sisters, Maria attended the Ursuline Convent School in Charlestown, until a Know-Nothing mob burned it down, thus ending the 13-year-old's formal education. She then joined the circle of women who met at Margaret Fuller 's home. In 1839, Maria met a young law student, the future poet James Russell Lowell. They married in 1844.

Maria White Lowell was important in her own right as an author of poems, 20 of which were published in 1855, and a complete collection in 1907 and 1936. An ardent liberal, she steered her husband from his natural conservatism, stimulating his interests in both the abolition and Transcendental movements—so much so that James Russell Lowell eventually became an editor for the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Her poetry, with a few exceptions, is considered cultivated but derivative, and her greatest work is the abolitionist poem "Africa." Maria had rescued her husband from severe depression when they met, but the loss of two of her children in infancy and another son while traveling in Italy in 1852, plunged her into grief. After she died a year later at age 32, possibly of tuberculosis, James Lowell did not publish another book for 11 years.

suggested reading:

Vernon, Hope. The Poems of Maria White Lowell with Unpublished Letters and Biography, 1936.

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