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Sherwood, Katharine Margaret (1841–1914)

Sherwood, Katharine Margaret (1841–1914)

American journalist, poet and civic leader. Name variations: Kate Brownlee; Kate Brownlee Sherwood. Born Katharine Margaret Brownlee on September 24, 1841, in Poland, Ohio; died after suffering a stroke on February 15, 1914; daughter of James Brownlee (a Scottish immigrant and judge) and Rebecca (Mullen) Brownlee; educated at Poland Union Seminary; married Isaac Ruth Sherwood (a journalist who later served in Congress), in 1859; children: Lenore and James.

Published two volumes of poetry, Camp-Fire, Memorial-Day, and Other Poems (1885) and Dream of Ages: A Poem of Columbia (1893); served as first president of the Ohio Newspaper Women's Association (1902).

Katharine Margaret Brownlee was born in 1841 in Poland, Ohio, and educated at the local seminary. At age 18, she married Isaac Ruth Sherwood, a journalist who would later serve as a congressional representative from Toledo. During the Civil War, while he worked his way up to the rank of brigadier general in the Union Army, Katharine—better known as Kate—took over her husband's duties with the Williams County Gazette in Bryan, Ohio. There she edited and served as manager of the paper, following the events and battles of the Civil War that would mark her, like so many of her generation, for the rest of her life. Isaac returned to journalism after the war, and from 1875 to about 1885 Sherwood helped him edit the Toledo Journal. In 1883, she was one of the founders of the Woman's Relief Corps (WRC), an auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization for veterans of the Union Army. Founded over ten years before the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the WRC, of which Sherwood later served as national president, provided charity for poor Northern veterans, worked for legislation to provide pensions for nurses who had served during the Civil War, and within 25 years grew to include over 100,000 members.

Sherwood's first collection of poetry, much of which previously had appeared in various newspapers, was published in 1885. Camp-Fire, Memorial-Day, and Other Poems focused primarily on the Civil War and its aftermath, with such poems as "Christmas at the Soldiers' Orphans' Home" and "Thomas at Chickamauga." Called "the poetess of the Congressional Circle," Sherwood became widely known for these poems and the ones included in her second book, Dream of Ages: A Poem of Columbia. This work, published in 1893, was a wide-ranging, allegoric history of America, celebrating patriotism (as did so many of her poems) while also recalling the strife between Native Americans and white settlers, North and South, and slaves and masters. None of her poems have retained an audience, but they clearly struck a chord with readers of the day.

Sherwood meanwhile continued her career as a journalist, working as a Washington correspondent for a newspaper syndicate, serving as editor of the women's department of the National Tribune, a Washington, D.C., newspaper that focused on issues of interest to Union Army veterans and their families, and writing satires on politics for the New York Sun. In 1902, she became the first president of the Ohio Newspaper Women's Association. She was also deeply involved in civic causes, particularly in regards to education, children's welfare, and the inculcation of patriotism in schools and public life. Sherwood belonged to a number of women's clubs (she had served as the first president of the Canton, Ohio, branch of the Sorosis Club in 1893), and was a proponent of women's suffrage. She suffered a stroke in Washington, D.C., where her husband was serving in Congress, in January 1914, and a second stroke three weeks later. After her death on February 15, 1914, the Toledo News-Bee noted in her obituary: "No other woman has occupied so important a place in Toledo's public life."


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Willard, Frances E., and Mary A. Livermore, eds. A Woman of the Century, 1893.

Ginger Strand , Ph.D., New York City

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