THE classic Thanksgiving Poem, “Over the River and Through the Wood,” was published in 1844 by Lydia Maria Child (February 11, 1802—October 20, 1880).
The poem celebrates traveling to her grandfather’s house, said to be the Paul Curtis House in Medford, Massachusetts. When the poem was turned into a song by an unknown composer, the destination was changed from grandfather’s house to grandmother’s.
Although Lydia Maria Child is best known for penning this feel good holiday poem, she was a committed abolitionist and wrote many books and articles promoting the abolishment of slavery, decades before the Civil War.
For instance, she helped organize anti-slavery societies and raise money to finance the 1834 anti-slavery fair in Boston. She was also an early champion of Native American and women’s rights.
Anti-Slavery Societies (and poetry) played a surprising role in the abolitionist movement
Before the Civil War, there were organized abolitionist groups in the North. One such group was called the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS). Although very unusual for the time period, it was comprised of a racially mixed group of primarily white Quaker women and free black women.
United by their desire to end slavery, these women circulated anti-slavery petitions, held public meetings and organized fundraising efforts.
The Anti-Slavery Alphabet was created by the PFASS as a fundraiser for the 1846 Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Fair. The short alphabet rhymes were meant to persuade people to stop the unjust practice of slavery. This was fifteen years before the start of the Civil War in 1861.
Here’s a short excerpt from The Anti-Slavery Alphabet:
The PFASS was so successful with their various fundraising efforts, that they produced approximately 20% of the state anti-slavery budget. Due to their fundraising success, these women were able to maintain a high profile in the abolitionist movement.
These early women’s abolitionist groups paved the way for future groups to seek the right to vote and gain rights of equality for women and minorities.