Woman of the Century/Mary Ashton Rice Livermore
LIVERMORE, Mrs. Mary Ashton Rice, was born in Boston, Mass., 19th December, 1821. Her father, Timothy Rice, who was of Welsh de- scent, served in the United States Navy during the War of 1812-15. Her mother, Zebiah Vose Glover Ashton, born in Boston, was the daughter of Capt. Nathaniel Ashton, of London, Eng. Mrs. Livermore was placed in the public schools of Boston at an early age and was graduated at fourteen, receiving one of the six medals distributed for good scholarship. There were then no high, normal or Latin schools for girls, and their admission to colleges was not even suggested. She was MARY ASHTON RICE LIVERMORE. sent to the female seminary in Charlestown, Mass., now Boston, where she completed the four-year course in two, when she was elected a member of the faculty, as teacher of Latin and French. While teaching, she continued her studies in Latin, Greek and metaphysics under tutors, resigning her position at the close of the second year to take charge of a family school on a plantation in southern Virginia, where she remained nearly three years. As there were between four and five hundred slaves on the estate, Mrs. Livermore was brought face to face with the institution of slavery and witnessed deeds of barbarism as tragic as any described in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." She returned to the North a radical Abolitionist, and thenceforth entered the lists against slavery and every form of oppression. She taught a school of her own in Duxbury, Mass., for the next three years, the ages of her pupils ranging from fourteen to twenty years. It was in reality the high school of the town, and was so counted, when she relinquished it, in 1845, to become the wife of Rev. D. P. Livermore, a Universalist minister settled in Fall River, Mass. The tastes, habits of study and aims of the young couple were similar, and Mrs. Livermore drifted inevitably into literary work. She called the young parishioners of her husband into reading and study clubs, which she conducted, wrote hymns and songs for church hymnals and Sunday-school singing-books, and stories, sketches and poems for the "Galaxy," "Indies' Repository," New York "Tribune " and "National Era." She was identified with the Washingtonian Temperance Reform before her marriage, was on the editorial staff of a juvenile temperance paper, and organized a Cold Water Army of fifteen-hundred boys and girls, for whom she wrote temperance stories which she read to them and which were afterwards published in book form, under the title, "The Children's Army" (Boston, 1844). She wrote two prize stories in 1848, one for a State temperance organization, entitled, "Thirty Years too Late," illustrating the Washingtonian movement, and the other, for a church publishing house, entitled, "A Mental Transformation," elucidating a phase of religious belief. The former was republished in England, where it had a large circulation, has been translated into several languages by missionaries, and was republished in Boston in 1876. In 1857 the Livermores removed to Chicago, III., where Mr. Livermore became proprietor and editor of a weekly religious paper, the organ of the Universalist denomination in the Northwest, and Mrs. Livermore became his associate editor. For the next twelve years her labors were herculean. She wrote for every department of the paper, except the theological, and in her husband's frequent absences from home, necessitated by church work, she had charge of the entire establishment, paper, printing-office and publishing house included. She continued to furnish stories, sketches and letters to eastern periodicals, gave herself to church and Sunday-school work, was untiring in her labors for the Home of the Friendless, assisted in the establishment of the Home for aged Women and the Hospital for Women and Children, and was actively identified with the charitable work of the city She performed much reportorial work in those days, and at the first nomination of Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency, in the Chicago Wigwam in 1860, she was the only woman reporter who had a place among a hundred or more men reporters. All the while she was her own housekeeper, directing her servants herself and giving personal supervision to the education and training of her children. A collection of her stories, written during those busy days, was published under the title, "Pen Pictures " (Chicago, 1S63). The great uprising among men at the opening of the Civil War, in 1861, was paralleled by a similar uprising among women, and in a few months there were hundreds of women's organizations formed throughout the North for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers and the care of soldiers' families. Out of the chaos of benevolent efforts evolved by the times, the United States Sanitary Commission was born. Mrs. Livermore, with her friend, Mrs. Jane C. Hoge, was identified with relief work for the soldiers from the beginning, and at the instance of Rev. Dr. Henry W. Bellows, president of the commission, they were elected associate members of the United States Sanitary Commission, with their headquarters in Chicago, and the two friends worked together till the end of the war. Mrs. Livermore resigned all positions save that on her husband's paper, secured a governess for her children, and subordinated all demands upon her time to those of the commission. She organized Soldiers' Aid Societies, delivered public addresses to stimulate supplies and donations of money in the principal towns and cities of the Northwest, wrote letters by the hundreds, personally and by amanuenses, and answered all that she received, wrote the circulars, bulletins and monthly reports of the commission, made trips to the front with sanitary stores, to whose distribution she gave personal attention, brought back large numbers of invalid soldiers who were discharged that they might die at home, and whom she accompanied in person, or by proxy, to their several destinations, assisted to plan, organize and conduct colossal Sanitary Fairs, and wrote a history of them at their close, detailed women nurses for the hospitals, by order of Secretary Stanton, and accompanied them to their posts; in short, the story of women's work during the war has never been told, and can never be understood save by those connected with it. Mrs Livermore has published her reminiscences of those crucial days in a large volume, entitled " My Story of the War" (Hartford, Conn., 1888), which has reached a sale of between fifty-thousand and sixty-thousand copies. The war over, Mrs. Livermore resumed the former tenor of her life, and took up again the philanthropic and literary work which she had temporarily relinquished. The woman suffrage movement, which had been inaugurated twelve years before the war, by Lucretia Mott and Mrs. Cady Stanton, and which had been suspended during the absorbing activities of the war, was then resuscitated, and Mrs. Livermore identified herself with it. She had kept the columns of her husband's paper ablaze with demands for the opening of colleges and professional schools to woman, for the repeal of unjust laws that blocked her progress, and for an enlargement of her industrial opportunities, that she might become self-supporting, but she had believed this might be accomplished without making her a voter. Her experiences during the war taught her differently. She very soon made arrangements for a woman suffrage convention in Chicago, where never before had one been held. The leading clergymen of the city took part in it, prominent advocates of the cause from various parts of the country were present, and it proved a notable success. The Illinois Woman Suffrage Association was organized and Mrs. Livermore was elected its first president. In January, 1860, she established a woman suffrage paper, "The Agitator," at her own cost and risk, which espoused the temperance reform as well as that of woman suffrage. In January, 1870, the " Woman's Journal " was established in Boston by a joint-stock company, for the advocacy of woman suffrage, and Mrs. Livermore received an invitation to become its editor-in-chief, which she accepted, merging her own paper in the new advocate. Her husband disposed of his paper and entire establishment in Chicago, the family returned to the Last, and have since resided in Melrose, Mass. for two years Mrs. Livermore edited the "Woman's Journal," when she resigned all editorial work to give her time more entirely to the lecture field. For twenty-rive years she has been conspicuous on the lecture platform and has been heard in the lyceum courses of the country year after year in nearly even- State of the Union, as well as in England and Scotland. She chooses a wide range of topics, and her lectures are biographical, historical, political, religious, reformatory and sociological. One volume of her lectures has been published, entitled "What shall we do with our Daughters? and Other Lectures" (Boston, 1883). and another is soon to follow . She has traveled extensively in the United States, literally from ocean to ocean, and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. In company with her husband, she has made two visits to Europe, where she was much instructed by intercourse with liberal and progressive people Her pen has not been idle during these last twenty years, and her articles have appeared in the "North American Review," the "Arena," the "Chautauquan," the "Independent." the "Youth's Companion," the "Christian Advocate," "Woman's Journal " and other periodicals. She is much interested in politics and has twice been sent by the Republicans of her own town as delegate to the Massachusetts State Republican Convention, charged with the presentation of temperance and woman suffrage resolutions, which have been accepted and incorporated into the party platform. She is identified with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and for ten years was president of the Massachusetts Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She was president of the Woman's Congress during the first two years of its organization, has served as president of the American Woman's Suffrage Association, is president of the Beneficent Society of the New England Conservatory of Music, which assists promising and needy students in the prosecution of their musical studies, is identified with the National Women's Council, which holds triennial meetings, is connected with the Chautauqua movement, in which she is much interested, is a life member of the Boston Woman's Educational and Industrial Union, and holds memberships in the Woman's Relief Corps, the Ladies' Aid Society of the Massachusetts Soldiers' Home, the Massachusetts Woman's Indian Association, the Massachusetts Prison Association, the American Psychical Society and several literary clubs. In religion she is a Unitarian, but cares more for life ana character than for sect or creed. She is a believer in Nationalism and regards Socialism, as expounded in America, as "applied Christianity." Notwithstanding her many years of hard service, she is still in vigorous health. Happy in her home, and in the society of her husband:, children and grandchildren, she keeps steadily at work with voice and pen and influence, ready to lend a hand for the weak and struggling, to strike a blow* for the right against the wrong, to prophesy a better future in the distance, and to insist on a woman's right to help it along.