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@ElizaBTweetin: April 8, 1873: Caroline Stickney Creevey

Posted on April 7, 2014

Eliza B. Wheaton's diary, 4-9 April 1873

Eliza B. Wheaton's diary,
4-9 April 1873

Spring invigorated Eliza Wheaton, and her activities ranged from cleaning to installing new carpets.  She also entertained a number of visitors, some of whom are obscure, such as Mrs. Frank Richmond and Mrs. Otis, and some of whom were famous in their lifetimes, such as Caroline Alathea Stickney (Mrs. John Kennedy) Creevey Class of 1863, who visited on April 5.

Caroline A. Creevey, Flowers of Field, Hill & Swamp

Caroline A. Creevey, Flowers of Field, Hill & Swamp

Mrs. Creevey (1843-1920) was a busy woman. In addition to an active out-door life, botanising, gardening, keeping house, church and club activities, she published a number of popular books on New England botanicals, an autobiography, essays, and a series of plays co-authored with Mrs. Margaret Elizabeth Sangster.  She lived in the neighborhood of Greene Avenue in Brooklyn, along with numerous other authors, including Mrs. Sangster, Will Carleton, Mrs. Marion Harland Terhune, Henry Chadwick, Olive Thorne Miller, Mrs. Margaret Hamilton Welsh, Mrs. Mary Bolles Branch and her daughter Anna, as well as Mrs. Kate Upson Clark, Class of 1869.[1]

Caroline’s most important publication, for those of us at Wheaton, was her autobiography, A Daughter of the Puritans: an Autobiography (1916). Several chapters describe her four years at Wheaton, and from them, we learn of the religious fervor of the early 1860s.

Tragopon Pratensis l, Illustration from Creevey's Flowers of Field...

Tragopon Pratensis l, Illustration from Creevey's Flowers of Field...

Creevey published two botanical books: Harper’s Guide to Wild Flowers (1912), and Flowers of Field, Hill and Swamp (1897). Both were profusely illustrated to assist “the unscientific public to identify flowers,” and were organized by the places where plants might be found. Anne Botsford Comstock of Cornell University wrote of Creevey’s books,

While the knowledge of the name of a plant can scarcely be called nature’s study, yet it is certain that after we know a plant by name we more readily see it and study its habits, just as we are prone to shake hands with and say pleasant things to people to whom we have been introduced.[2]

Charles Alexander McMurry noted that Creevey’s books (as well as those of Louis Agassiz) provided teachers with “professional books which deal wisely with the problems and difficulties of science instruction.”[3]

Those of you who actually click on the links to Mrs. Creevey’s books may find them “quaint”. However, some of her essays are as pertinent today as they were 100 years ago.  In particular, her essay “Literary Commercialism” in At Random, attacks plagiarism:

The worst vice of the literary world is plagiarism; the stealing of another's brains. The older the world grows, the further it should be removed from anything new. But since man is a progressive being, and since the old world becomes ever fresh, there is small excuse for this sort of theft. It means loose conscience and mental poverty. One does not need to write. The only excuse for such an appeal for fame is pressure of new ideas, first-hand thought which struggles for expression. Yet this vice of stealing literary goods is not uncommon….Indulgence in this vice is not safe, for there is pretty sure to be some person in the audience of hearers or readers who may recall the original source.[4]

Among Creevey’s other publications are:

Recreations in Botany (1893)

Harper’s Book of Little Plays (1910)

At Random (1920), a series of essays written during nine months of enforced bed rest.

A series of articles on various subjects from plays, short stories and essays, to lessons on botany and child rearing. These appear in Harper’s Bazar, interspersed with images of the latest fashions. (1892-1898)

Several plays with Margaret E. Sangster, including:

At The Sea-Side: A Suggestion for a Summer Entertainment”, in Harper’s Round Table, Sept. 10, 1895.

Flora, Queen Of Summer. A Medley”, in Harper's Round Table, May 28, 1895.


[1] Francis Whiting Halsey. Women Authors of Our Day in Their Homes: Personal Descriptions & Interviews, NY: James Pott & Company, 1903, pp. 189-190.

[2] Anne Botsford Comstock, “Outdoor Books; A Selected List from the Literature of Recent Years”, New York Times, Dec. 14, 1901, Saturday Review of Books and Art section, p.6.

[3] Charles Alexander McMurry. Special Method in Natural Science for the First Four Grades of the Common School. Bloomington, IL: Public School Publishing Company, 1896, pp. 74-75.

[4] Caroline A. Creevey, At Random, NY: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 1920, pp. 1-2.

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