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Sara (or Sarah) Jane Clarke was born in Pompey, New York, September 23,1823, and died in New Rochelle, New York, Wednesday, April 20,1904 (Beaver Falls Review 1). She was the daughter of Dr. Thaddeus C. Clarke (1770-1854) and Deborah Baker Clarke (c. 1791-1881) (Merrill III 513) as well as a descendent of Jonathan Edwards, the noted preacher and theologian. Under the pseudonym of Grace Greenwood, Sara became a popular poet, and essayist of the mid-nineteenth century. Her first publications were poems, which appeared in Rochester, New York, newspapers and in a magazine, the New Mirror (Blain, Grundy, and Clements 458). Among her works are Greenwood Leaves , a collection of her short letters to magazines (1850); Haps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe (1854); History of My Pets (1854); Stories from Famous Ballads; Recollections of My Childhood and Other Stories; Merry England (1855); Bonnie Scotland (1861); Stories and Sketches; New Life in New Lands, essays about the Rocky Mountains (1873); Forest Tragedy , Stories from Home Folks , Legends of Travel ; and The Record of Five Years , in which she related her experiences during the Civil War. Her Life of Queen Victoria, was produced in the hope that the book would prove an uplifting influence on young Americans (McElroy 159).
In 1842 (according to the Beaver Falls Review ; Blaine, Grundy, and Clements have 1843) the Clarkes moved from New York to a house adjoining Christ Episcopal Church on Third Avenue in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Her father, Dr. Clarke, practiced medicine in New Brighton until his death in 1854. Sara attended and was graduated from the Greenwood Institute of New Brighton (Warner 448) This was an academy for girls directed by Myra Townsend. The school apparently inspired her to incorporate its name into her nom de plume (McElroy 159). By 1844 she was writing poems and children's stories. Soon she was contributing stories to the Saturday Evening Post and Harper's Monthly . In 1852 she was sent to Europe on an assignment by the New York Times , providing reports for that paper over a fifteen month period. These articles were collected in Haps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe (159). New Brighton remained her home base until 1853 when she married Leander K. Lippincott at the church by her home (Beaver Falls Review 1).
When William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass lectured at New Brighton in August of 1847, they visited the Clarkes. Garrison wrote to his wife, Helen, about this young poetess who long before the time of his visit had become interested in the anti-slavery movement. He considered her to be both handsome and interesting. Garrison, Douglass, and Milo spent an hour with the family (Merrill III 511).
Sara was editorial assistant for Godey's Lady's Book for one year, then began to write for the antislavery National Era and the Saturday Evening Post (Blain, Grundy, and Clements 458). She was among the first women in this country to work as a newspaper correspondent on a regular basis (Merrill III 513).
Clarke was a supporter of the women's rights movement by 1850. In that year she lectured on various topics including prison reform (McElroy 159). After her marriage to Leander K. Lippencott, she and her husband started the first, children's magazine in the United States, the Little Pilgrim. which promised "pure morality with pure literature." Abby Kelley Foster, when she was working in Indiana in late February, 1854, sent her six-year-old daughter, Alla (Paulina Wright Foster), a subscription to the Little Pilgrim (Sterling 291). John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "The Barefoot Boy," was first published in this children's magazine (McElroy 159).
Her marriage to Lippencott proved unhappy. In 1876 he was indicted for fraud in relation to Indian land claims and avoided a trial by leaving the United States (Ruchames IV 426). During the Civil War she supported the North's cause by helping to raise money and lecturing on patriotic themes. She lived in Washington, D.C., continuing to write for the New YorkTimes and other newspapers and contributing to the Ladies' Home Journal . Her reports from Washington so helped the Northern cause that Lincoln called her "the little patriot" (McElroy159). She spent the last years of her life with her daughter in New Rochelle, New York (Blain, Grundy, and Clements 458,459), and was buried beside her parents in Grove Cemetery, New Brighton, Pennsylvania.
In the following article from Milo's scrapbooks, Grace Greenwood is extolled by an unknown writer:
A lady writer from Washington to The New York Tribune, in a lengthy article on politics and legislation gives some sensible views on the subject of woman's rights. She is an eloquent, chaste, amusing and forcible writer on all subjects -- but that mentioned above is all we have room to copy -- The authoress, we believe was once a resident of New Brighton, Beaver county -- Grace Greenwood. We are of the opinion female suffrage would be safe in such hands as hers; nor would the highest office in the nation lose its dignity by being entrusted to such hands (Scrapbook V 50-51).
The following letter was written while Milo was teaching in a school at Mount Pleasant, Jefferson County, Ohio.
from Sara Jane Clarke
New Brighton, Feb. 17, 1844
My dear friend,
Truly, I throw myself on the generous kindness of your heart for pardon for my long neglect of your letter. I assure you it was joyfully received and I now thank you warmly for so long remembering an unworthy friend. I have thought that you would even forget me when other forms and faces were around you, and other voices filled your ear. But thank Heaven, faith and friendship and remembrance are not just idle words, though the world would fain have us to think so. You did remember me, you did write to me. I it is who it would seem have been unfaithful and forgetful. But my friend, could you know all my cares, occupations, and engagements, you would indeed readily and with a smile forgive me. I will tell you even, if it will give you any pleasure, that tonight I stay from church in order to write to you; although the meeting is to me a very interesting one, and write to you though I am owing letters to three brothers, two sisters, and a host of cousins and friends-- We abolitionists, you know, recognize a hindrance of the soul, which though it may not be as tiring as that of nature, is at times even more active. But enough of excuses and explanations -- away with them! In epistolatory writings much time is often lost on them-- Well, our dear, high, holy and glorious cause is onward yet! And does its mighty tide still bear your soul on its swelling breast? I trust so-- Heaven forbid that it should go down as a wreck or be cast ashore as flood wood
You speak of my having suffered much for the sake of the cause-- Except at or about the time of my great trial, I have not had much to complain of-- The world does not dare to treat me with open disrespect. So, my friend, do not condole and comfort me as persecuted, who has hardly seen enough of persecution to bring out her strength and prove her soul. While the world has abstained from condemning very severely my conduct and principles, the noble band of Abolitionists have almost overwhelmed me with unnumbered kindnesses-- They have warmly extended to me the right hand of fellowship and have brought all their rich and beautiful things forward to glad the sight of her who had been blind, till her eyes were anointed by the hand of Truth-- My communications have been politely received, and I think I can already count some gentlemen of the antislavery press among my friends. --Dr. Elder1 has been since November a warm, earnest and faithful friend to me -- Mr. Bradford2 of Darlington has manifested a flattering interest in my antislavery progress. I have also many abolitionist friends in Pittsburgh. Now my friend, am I to be pitied? I ask indeed for sympathy, but it is the sympathy of joy -- Rejoice with me that in passing the Rubicon my frail boat was not swamped. Now you see, I have defined my position -- You are not to condole me as tried and persecuted -- I am doing wrong to accept such consolation.
Is all well with you? Does your school prosper? Do you meet with much opposition? How is your health and that of your family? Do write soon and tell me all -- Oh, I pray you, rest not, falter not in any work our Father points out to you. "Continue faithful unto the end"--"Gird on the whole armour of God" and lay it not aside until the great and glorious victory is won.
My sister Caroline continues strong in the faith, and we have reason to be thankful that it is so, for we believe that her having found out one good [a portion of the letter is torn off here by the seal] aim of her existence and her striving for that aim will be a means of restoring or helping to restore her to health.
Your father's family are well, I believe. Our family sends their affectionate remembrance to you -- Write when you are able, truly on all subjects, and believe me
Yours cordially, sincerely
Sarah J. Clarke
Love to Mrs. Townsend. Excuse the appearance of this letter.
1In his History of Beaver County , Joseph H. Bausman lists all members of the Beaver County Medical Society from its founding to 1804, but no Dr. Elder appears until January 13, 1859, fifteen years after the above letter from Sara Jane Clarke was written. This was Dr. David Elder. A Dr. William Elder is listed in the index to one of Milo's letter files, but the letter itself is missing. On the other hand, there was in Darlington a William Elder, partner in a flour mill and operator of a six hundred acre farm, who was an abolitionist (Jordan II 628, 629). However, it seems unlikely that Sara would speak of him as Dr . Elder.
2Mr. Bradford of Darlington, of course, was Arthur Bullus Bradford.
The following letter is addressed to Milo A. Townsend, Fallston, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. At this time New Brighton did not have a post office, so they had a Fallston address. Milo seems to have sent Sara a letter upbraiding her for failing to do enough for the antislavery cause.
rom Sara Jane Clarke
Washington, July 13, 1845
My Dear Friend
Your letter was a pleasant surprise to me. I had not anticipated among the agreements of my visit here to receive a communication from you. It is really worth while to go from home now and then if for nothing else, but to get letters from our friends there. I have found also that most people write to me more affectionately than they talk and sometimes more solemnly and impressively -- your last letter is an instance of the latter truth. You do indeed write as though you trembled for the safety of my antislavery principles and wished to bear your testimony against my degeneracy -- I beg your pardon, but I think it not exactly generous for the friends of this cause now to doubt the existence of my antislavery spirit and feeling because I have made no loud manifestation of them lately. Shall I be accused of vanity when I say I may presume to believe that my songs of freedom have been sufficiently bold and clear in their tone to have some echoes lingering yet in the memories of abolitionists -- I am naturally wayward and perverse perhaps, for every doubt that is expressed concerning my feelings and position but drives me back. No, I'll not say so much as that but makes me more disposed to continue where I am-- I wish neither to be pulled nor driven. I wish only to follow the dictates of the spirit of freedom in my own nature -- I do not know that I am of the stuff of which martyrs are made, for practical dreams and expressions aside, I do not feel disposed to lay myself as an uncalled for and unnecessary sacrifice on any altar, even that of Liberty-- In the more pecuniary point of view, I can not afford to devote myself entirely to Anti- Slavery-- and again as a matter of necessity, I must vary my literary labors. Were I possessed of some times any genius, I could not write, and write well, always on the same subject -- Whittier and Burleigh could not do it -- No poet has ever done it, for it is utterly impossible -- Could I vary my labors with public speaking, it were another thing. Yet this I will say-- that though my pen must sometimes be given to other subjects, my soul shall ever be filled with freedom-- it shall be the pervading spirit of all I write-- an undercurrent strong and full, through the whole tide of my poetry.
I will have a good long talk with you when we meet about the Liberty Party1 and the churches-- the former, I hope I can defend, but the latter, I hesitate not to declare I shall not undertake to defend-- I also acknowledge that I am waiting impatiently for an opportunity to leave the church of which I am a member, unless it reforms, of which I see very little prospect-- I know I am in a "position" by belonging to a Pro slavery church, and so take "time by the fore lock" by making frank confession-- on that count I plead "guilty."
I hope I may be at Marlborough-- I long to see Abby Kelley-- only I fear an encounter with her as argument is not my forte-- I send home a poem which I read at an antislavery meeting on the Fourth-- Isn't reading on the platform next to speaking then? I hope the ode will please you-- It is not exclusively Liberty Party but in glorification of all Abolitionists 'tis a kind of a growl to show that I am alive.
I am well and enjoying myself finely at Washington-- Dr. Le Moyne's family are remarkably pleasant and intelligent people--
Is'nt this an excruciating poetical letter-- you know how I dash away at everything right or wrong-- Love to Elizabeth-- and now and ever believe me, yours
Sara J. Clarke
1Liberty Party. Gerrit Smith and two other upstate New York abolitionists led in the formation of the abolitionist Liberty Party in 1840. This party proposed to use political means to solve the slavery problem; therefore, a number of abolitionists, who hoped that such political action would succeed, joined the party. For them the work of this new organization replaced the antislavery societies (Mabee 246). Strangely, the Liberty Party supported the United States Constitution, although that document was pro-slavery at the time. Garrison objected strongly to such inconsistency (in a letter to his wife, Helen E. Garrison, August 20, 1847, as quoted in Merrill III 515, 516). A few months after Sara's letter, Abby Kelley in October, 1845, wrote of the Liberty Party as a source of "terrible opposition" to their work.
By 1842 the Liberty Party was advising slaves to make use of peaceful resistance to their masters. Although the slaves could not read, Gerrit Smith wrote on behalf of the party an address which was published for them. In it he urged them not to revolt but to learn to read and write and to make every effort to escape from their masters (Mabee 56).
A little later many members of the Liberty party merged with others in the Free Soil party, and in turn a large number from the Free Soil party joined the Republican party (Mabee 247).
In 1859 Sara Jane Clarke, now using the nom de plume, Grace Greenwood wrote to Milo Townsend asking him to arrange for a lecture she was to give in New Brighton.
from Sara Jane Clarke
Cleveland, Feb. 1st/ 59
Dear Milo --
Providence permitting I will be in New Brighton on Monday next and lecture on Tuesday Eve for the receipts of the house -- less expenses. Do what you can for an audience. Get out posters or bribes.
Ever cordially yours,
This may have been the lecture reported in the following clipping in Milo's scrapbook. After it there are no further extant letters from Sara Jane Clarke.
The lecture by this lady in the Union School Hall Tuesday evening was an unusually brilliant production -- The eventful scenes in the wonderful life of Joan of Arc, were portrayed in a vivid and touching manner. Thoughts clothed in poetic beauty, and events of the most thrilling, historical interest were presented in a voice rich and melodious, which held the audience in admiring silence. Many sentiments were uttered, which appealed strongly to the religious and emotional elements of our nature, and which left an impression that will not soon be effaced or forgotten. As a literary production, this lecture was of the highest order. New Brighton was long the home of this gifted lady, and it was with peculiar pleasure that she was again greeted, within its borders -- especially as the public utterer of thoughts so beautiful, so noble and inspiring (Scrapbook IV 98).