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

MARGARET PRIOR (1773-1842)

Sarah R.I. Bennett. Walks of Usefulness (New York, 1843), frontispiece. Library Company has 19th ed., 1868.

MARGARET PRIOR (1773 - 1842)

Margaret Prior was only sixteen when she married her first husband, William Allen. After his death she moved to New York City and married William Prior. Like Isabella Graham before her, Mrs. Prior dedicated herself to the city’s poor children: she established a soup kitchen, founded a school, and participated in a number of benevolent societies, including the New York Orphan Asylum, founded by Mrs. Graham and her daughter. She continued to serve the poor in various capacities until her death from inflammation of the lungs.

In addition to helping poor children outside her home, Mrs. Prior also adopted several children to raise herself. As evinced in the story of young Adeline, who suffered a spinal injury and lived only to the age of ten, Ms. Prior tended to the physical and spiritual needs of the children in her care:

“When the little sufferer was between three and four years old, as Mrs. Prior sat ruminating one day upon the care and toil that had been so long bestowed upon her, and the inefficacy of all known means of relief, her mind was directed to the Great Physician, and the thought suddenly occurred to her that a kind of stay might be prepared that would give support to the slender, broken body, and perhaps relieve her. She immediately went to a chest of linen, tore some strong cloth into strips, and bandaged the chest and limbs. From this time the child gained strength and was soon able to sit alone, and afterward to stand and walk. Her disposition became amiable, docile, and very affectionate; and this, with her peculiar suffering entwined her more and more closely around the maternal heart that had endured so much on her behalf. She improved rapidly, and soon evinced an understanding of religious truth remarkable for one of her years.” (p. 23-24)

Another portrait appears in:

Mrs. Hugo Reid Woman, Her Education and Influence (New York, 1848), frontispiece.




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