Lydia Huntley Sigourney
Born in Norwich, Connecticut, poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney—known as the “Sweet Singer of Hartford”—was the only daughter of a gardener. She attended private school with the assistance of her father’s employer, and founded a Hartford school for girls in 1814. At this school, without any specialized training, Sigourney taught a deaf student, Alice Cogswell, to read and write in English. Cogswell would later be the first student enrolled in the country’s first school for deaf children.
In 1815 Sigourney published her first book, Moral Pieces in Prose and Verse. In 1819 she married Charles Sigourney, a wealthy widower with three children. They settled in Hartford and had five children, three of whom died in infancy.
Her husband encouraged her to devote her time to writing, but requested that she publish her work anonymously. She did so until 1833, when the family encountered financial hardship. Using her own name, Sigourney quickly found success and published over dozens of volumes of poetry and essays. Her poetry frequently engages Native American and anti-slavery concerns within a religious context, and often takes the form of elegy.
Sigourney worked as an editor for Godey’s Lady’s Book and published her work in many journals. On a tour of Europe in 1840, Sigourney met with writers including Maria Edgeworth, William Wordsworth, and Thomas Carlyle, an experience she wrote about in Pleasant Memories of Pleasant Lands (1842). Her memoir, Letters of a Life (1866), was published posthumously.