The Forgotten Radical

Lydia Moland on the children’s writer who had a change of heart

Lydia Maria Child, photographed c. 1965 (John A. Whipple/Library of Congress)
Lydia Maria Child, photographed c. 1965 (John A. Whipple/Library of Congress)

Whether it was to grandmother’s or grandfather’s house we went, most of us grew up with enough of the tune to get us “Over the River and Through the Wood.” Yet few know much about the poem’s author, Lydia Maria Child. A literary celebrity by the age of 23, she spent much of the 1820s publishing stories, fables, and riddles for young readers, in addition to her blockbuster first novels. But by 1830, Child became an early, and fierce, abolitionist, and in 1833 published one of the first book-length treatises advocating for the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. How Child gained her convictions—and how she weathered the backlash—is the subject of philosopher Lydia Moland’s new biography, which brings renewed attention to Child’s incisive—and, until now, largely forgotten—critiques of racism and imperialism in 19th-century America.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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