Portraits of American Women Writers That Appeared in Print Before 1861 - Header and Menu


ALICE CARY (1820 – 1871)

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Woman’s Record (1853), p. 615; also 1855 ed.

ALICE CARY (1820 – 1871)

Alice Cary was born in Hamilton County, Ohio – then considered the western frontier of the United States – and though she descended from a highly literate family, she received little formal education. After her mother's death in 1835, Alice Cary's father moved away with his second wife, who disapproved of his daughters' literary aspirations.

Alice and her younger sister Phoebe began submitting their poems to newspapers as young women, and their work appeared frequently in periodicals around the country. The success of The Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary (1850) prompted the elder sister to move to New York to make a career of writing; Phoebe soon joined her there. Alice's prolific publication in numerous magazines, as well as the tremendous popularity of her short story collection Clovernook, or Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (1852), supported the sisters comfortably. Together they bought a house in which they hosted salon-style receptions for the city's literary and artistic notables.

Both Cary sisters were abolitionists and suffragists, though they rarely spoke publicly on these issues. While Alice Cary briefly took over the presidency of Sorosis, a New York women's club, she maintained that a woman should feel most satisfied in her role as a wife and mother (she was neither). Her fiction, in its realistic depictions of the West, constitutes some of the first American "regionalist" writing.

Another portrait appears in:

The Ladies’ Repository (August, 1855), plate preceding p. 449.



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