Sue Young Histories

Mary Ashton Rice Livermore 1820 - 1905

December 02, 2007

mary livermoreMary A Livermore 1820 - 1905 was a member of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union with homeopaths Harriet Clisby, Arvilla B Haynes and Mercy B Jackson, homeopathic supporters Julia Ward Howe, Edna Dow Cheney, Abby May and Abby Diaz. Livermore was friendly with homeopath Mary Ann Bickerdke, and she helped Bickerdyke’s two young sons to find a suitable position.

A turning point came when, during a cholera epidemic in the city, she determined to stay and volunteer her help rather than leaving Daniel and fleeing with her daughters. She quickly developed organizational skills, and when the Civil War broke out she was recruited by Henry Whitney Bellows, head of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, to become co-ordinator of the Northwestern branch.

During the next four years she organized a far-flung volunteer support network for the Union hospitals, visited the hospitals, wrote letters “by the thousands” for soldiers, escorted wounded soldiers from hospitals to their homes, and raised large sums of money in support of the Commission’s work.

After the New Covenant, at which she had worked with Daniel as co-editor, had been sold, in 1869 Mary served as editor of the woman’s rights periodical, the Agitator. Later that year the Agitator was merged with the Woman’s Journal, published in Boston. In 1870 the couple moved to Melrose, Massachusetts, in order for Mary to continue her editorial work.

Mary Livermore’s lectures, delivered without manuscript or notes, addressed a wide variety of topics, ranging from women’s rights and temperance to immortality. While reflecting her Universalist convictions, all were crafted for broad appeal to a general audience. In ”Concerning Husbands and Wives” she held up a model of marriage between equal, complementary partners. In ”The Battle of Life” she shared her vision of the better world that was to come and encouraged her listeners to move in its direction.

In ”Does the Liquor Traffic Pay?” she described the huge social cost of alcohol and called on her audience to join her in winning the temperance battle. In ”Has the Night of Death no Morning” she affirmed her belief in the soul’s immortality, a belief to be fostered by noble living. In ”What shall we do with our Daughters?” she called on her listeners to prepare the next generation of women to take their rightful place in the affairs of the world. The last was her most popular lecture, revised annually and delivered more than eight hundred times.

Immensely popular as a public speaker, Mary became known as “the Queen of the American Platform.” She was the author of two substantial books: My Story of the War, published in 1887, an account of her work with the Sanitary Commission, and The Story of My Life, published in 1897. continue reading:

Mary Livermore and Jane Hoge were named associate managers of the Northwestern Sanitary Commission and lent their considerable experience and leadership to the cause. As associate managers, women learned how to run mass organizations and to raise funds on a scale exceeding local ladies’ auxiliary efforts. Ultimately, about three thousand aid societies came under the supervision of Livermore and Hoge, who had organized many of them personally.

Livermore also wrote Cooperative Womanhood in the State and My Story of the War: A Woman’s Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience_ and _The Story of My Life or the Sunshine and Shadow of Seventy YearsThe Story of My Life or the Sunshine and Shadow of Seventy Years_ and _Thirty Years too Late _and _A Mental Transformation _and __A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-seventy Biographical Sketches___.

With Frances Willard, she wrote American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies, with over 1400 Portraits. A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century.

Nearly four decades after her death, she became the namesake of a World War II Liberty ship, the SS Mary Livermore.


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