117 Forest Hills St, Boston, MA 02130
East Cemetery Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Ednah Dow Cheney (June 27, 1824 – November 19, 1904) was an activist and optimist throughout her life. She lived in Jamaica Plain in a home no longer standing. She was greatly influenced by Margaret Fuller’s Conversationsand worked tirelessly for women’s rights, especially suffrage and the abolition of slavery. She helped found the New England Women’s Club and was President of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, as well as the author of several memoirs and children’s books.
She was born in Boston. Mass., 27th June, 1824. There in 1853 she became the wife of Seth W. Cheney, an artist of local prominence, who died in 1856, leaving her with one daughter. In 1882, Cheney's daughter, Margaret Swan Cheney (September 8, 1855 – September 22, 1882), died of tuberculosis while a student in the 1882 class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Margaret Cheney's memory is preserved by the "Margaret Cheney Reading Room," devoted to the convenience of the women students.
Cheney's life had been devoted to philosophic and literary research and work. Her early womanhood was passed under the most stimulating influences. As one of the great intellects of her time, Margaret Fuller asserted leadership among Boston feminists by instituting her “Conversations” in 1839. For five years she led a “gifted and extraordinary circle” of feminine colleagues in conversation. Progressive women of all stripes attended these meetings, including Lydia Maria Child and others active in the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. Elizabeth Peabody, a Boston-area educator and reformer, hosted the meetings at her bookstore on West Street in Boston. Her sister Sophia Peabody, future wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne and artist in her own right, also appeared at these meetings. It is likely that the sculptor Sarah Fisher Ames participated as well. Attending the Conversations for three years, Ednah Dow Cheney, the future director of the School of Design for Women in Boston, wrote that Fuller “did not make us her disciples, her blind followers. She opened the book of life and helped us to read it for ourselves.” Inspired by the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, founded by Sarah Worthington King Peter in 1844, Cheney’s school offered classes in the domestic arts, such as textile and wallpaper design, wood engravings, and lithography.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mr and Mrs. Alcott, James Freeman Clarke and Theodore Parker were among those who strongly influenced Cheney's thought. Her parents, Sargent Smith Littlehale and Edna Parker, gave her every educational advantage. In 1851 she aided in forming the School of Design for Women, in Boston, and served secretary. In 1859 she aided in establishing a hospital in connection with the Woman's Medical School. She took part in a woman's rights convention in 1860. In 1812 she was secretary of the New England Hospital. In 1868 she helped to found the New England Woman's Club and served as vice-president. In 1863 she was secretary of the teachers' committee of the Freedman's Aid Society and secretary of the committee to aid colored regiments. In 1865 she went to Readville and taught soldiers, and attended the convention of Freedmen's societies in New York City, and in the following year the one held in Baltimore, and for several years visited colored schools in various Southern States. In 1869 she assisted in founding a horticultural school for women. She lectured on horticulture for women before the Massachusetts State Agricultural Society in 1871. In 1879 she delivered a course of ten lectures on the history of art before the Concord School of Philosophy, and the same year was elected vice-president of the Massachusetts School Suffrage Association, and later president. In 1887 she was elected president of the hospital she had helped to found. She was a delegate to the Woman's Council in Washington, D. C. in 1888. In 1890 she attended the Lake Mohawk Negro Conference. She has lectured and preached in many cities and has spoken at funerals occasionally. She was vice-president of the Free Religion Association. She visited Europe three times and traveled extensively in the United States. Her works, all published in Boston, include: "Hand-Book for American Citizens" "Patience" (1870), "Social Games" (1871). "Faithful to the Light" (1872). "Child of the Tide" (1874), "Life of Susan Dimoch " (1875), " Memoir of S. W. Cheney" (1881), "Gleanings in Fields of Art" (1881). "Selected Poems of Michael Angelo" (1885), "Children's Friend." a sketch of Louisa M. Alcott (1888), "Biography of L. M. Alcott" (1889), " Memoir of John Cheney, Engraver" (1888), "Memoir of Margaret S. Cheney" (1888), "Nora's Return" (1890). "Stories of Olden Time" (1890), and a number of articles in hooks. She contributed to the "North American Review," the "Christian Examiner," the "Radical," "Index," the "Woman's Journal" and other periodicals. She edited the poems of David A. Wasson (Boston, 1887), and of Harriet Winslow Sewall (Boston, 1889). Much of her work is devoted to religious and artistic subjects.
Cheney died at Jamaica Plain, November 19, 1904, and was buried at East Cemetery, Manchester, Connecticut.
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