Social Justice on Words

L. Maria (Francis) Child was born in Massachusetts in 1802. Her middle name was pronounced Ma-RYE-a. She studied to be a teacher. After just one year as a teacher, she decided to become a writer. She created the first periodical for juveniles. She was 24 years old.

Her first novel was a depiction of early American life. It was controversial for its story of an indigenous hero who fell in love with a white woman. However, she continued to write for the rest of her life.

When Maria married, her parents were concerned. Her husband had been known to be careless with his finances. Her husband did make Maria more aware of the challenges faced by slaves and indigenous people. As she began to write about those challenges, she lost a lot of her audience.

When President Andrew Jackson proposed moving the Cherokee Indian nation out of Georgia, even though it was against treaties, the Child’s attacked Jackson. Maria wrote another novel expressing a positive image of Indigenous people. The book drew little attention and had few sales.

Maria’s husband, however, was jailed for libel but his conviction was overturned by a higher court. Maria had to pick up more of the family finances and began writing books for lower-income women.

Maria continued to advocate against slavery, for women’s right to vote, and for the rights of Indigenous people. She was one of the founders of the Board of Indian Commissioners. The Board was created to advise Congress and the President on Native American policy. While good in concept, the composition of the Board was not in sync with the original mission.

Maria died at the age of 78. While many of her causes were never achieved in her lifetime, she was one of the first women to earn a living from her writing.

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“Over the river, and through the woods
To Grandfather’s house we go;”
– Lydia Maria Child (First two lines of a poem authored by Maria)

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