Sarah Carter Edgarton Mayo was born in Shirley Village, Massachusetts, the tenth of fifteen children. Joseph Edgarton, her father, was a successful manufacturer in Middlesex County. Thus Sarah grew up in an atmosphere of affluence and financial security, able to attend the local school, where her chief interests were geography and the natural sciences, especially botany and astronomy, accompanied by a taste for poetry. Later in life, her studies would include French, German, history, moral philosophy, and Plato.
In part to reduce the monetary strains on her family, Sarah contributed pieces to the Ladies’ Repository, a Universalist periodical published in Boston. Her first published work was a short story entitled “Annette Lee,” about a pious young woman caring for her dying mother. Later, from 1839 to 1842, she also served as the magazine’s associate editor. In 1840, following the urging of her friends, she accepted an invitation to edit the Rose of Sharon, an annual compilation of literary and religious writings by Universalists. She became one of the major contributors and held this position until her death.
Sarah’s writings include many poems, letters, two didactic novels for children (The Palfreys and Ellen Clifford; or the Genius of Reform), several translations, and a wide variety of prose compositions, including the short tale of Joan Lashford, a seventeenth century English martyr during the reign of Queen Mary. Common themes were religion, nature, and love. In 1847, she married Amory Dwight Mayo, pastor of the Independent Christian Society in Gloucester. That year, she also spent much of her time working on a fictionalized autobiography expressing the spiritual growth from childhood to middle-age of a woman like herself. Her novel was incomplete at the time of her death caused by a sudden illness in 1848. [C.Y.]