Revolutionary voice

On April 12, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the Boston Globe featured excerpts from the 19th century diary of Lucy Larcom, one of Wheaton’s most storied educators and an ardent abolitionist.

Lucy Larcom of Wheaton CollegeAs quoted in the Globe, Larcom wrote, “It will be no pleasure to any American to remember that he lived in this revolution, when brother lifted his hand against brother; and the fear is, that we shall forget that we are brethren still, though some are so unreasonable and wander so far from the true principles of national prosperity.”

The Globe noted that news of the Confederacy’s attack at Fort Sumter took a full day to reach Boston. Soon President Abraham Lincoln was rallying the troops, and on April 21 Larcom wrote: “I felt a soldier-spirit rising within me, when I saw the men of my native town armed and going to risk their lives for their country’s sake…. The streets of Boston were almost canopied with the stars and stripes, and the merchants festooned their shops with the richest goods of the national colors.”

According to the Wheaton College history online, Larcom “introduced the study of English Literature at Wheaton. Famed as a poet, author, and editor, Larcom is remembered for her autobiography, A New England Girlhood, still in print, in which she describes her youth working in the Lowell mills.”

Larcom taught literature, composition and other subjects at Wheaton for many years, beginning in 1854. She also founded the student literary journal, Rushlight, which is still published today. Her style of teaching “by lecture, reading and discussion, rather than by memorization and recitation” was revolutionary at the time, the college website notes.