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


LYDIA H. SIGOURNEY (1791 – 1865)

James B. Longacre and James Herring, eds. The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, vol. 4 (1839), plate opposite entry. Note that by the 1852-53 Peterson edition fewer portraits of women are included. This portrait is replaced by another portrait of Mrs. Sigourney.

LYDIA H. SIGOURNEY (1791 – 1865)

As a child Lydia Sigourney attended the local schools near her family's Connecticut home and browsed through the libraries of the woman for whom her father worked as a gardener and handyman. She and a friend founded a seminary for young women in Norwich, Connecticut in 1811, and she administered and taught in girls' schools until she married merchant Charles Sigourney in 1819. During these years she also published her first book, Moral Pieces, in Prose and Verse.

She continued to write throughout her married life, at first donating the proceeds of her publications to various reform groups such as the temperance movement, peace societies, and missionary groups. When her husband's prosperity began to decline in the 1830s, she sold her stories and poems to periodicals and, abandoning anonymity, Lydia Sigourney embraced her rapidly growing literary celebrity.

Her poems appeared in magazines and gift books as well as in her own collected volumes. She rarely departed from her trademark formula of pious and morbid themes tied together by catchy couplets. As a testament to her renown, Louis Godey paid her generously, not for editing his magazine, but rather for allowing her name to appear alongside the names of the actual editors. A shrewd businesswoman, she continued to publish at the rate of a book a year throughout the 1850s; she died in Hartford in 1865.

Other portraits appear in:

“Our Contributors,” in Graham’s Magazine 22 (1843): 53-55, frontispiece showing five separate portraits.

George B. Cheever, ed. The Poets of America (1847), plate opposite p. 348.

Thomas B. Read, ed. Female Poets of America (1849), plate opposite p. 45.

Lydia H. Sigourney. Illustrated Poems (1849), plate opposite p. 17.

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Woman’s Record (1853), p. 782; also 1855 ed.

Abner D. Jones, ed. The Illustrated American Biography, vol 3 (1853), p. 471.

Lydia H. Sigourney. Letters to My Pupils, 2 nd ed. (1853), frontispiece.

Lydia H. Sigourney. The Western Home (1854), frontispiece.

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (1855), vol. 2, p. 136.

Abner D. Jones. The American Portrait Gallery (New York, 1855), p. [514].

The Ladies’ Repository (February, 1855), plate preceding p. 65.

Henry Coppée, ed. A Gallery of Distinguished English and American Female Poets (1860), p. 181.



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