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August 2020 Notable Author: Francis E.W. Harper

“What matters it if they do forget the singer, so they don’t forget the song. – Frances E.W. Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911) was born free on September 24, 1825, in Baltimore, Maryland, became an orphan two years later, and was raised by her maternal aunt and uncle, Henrietta and Rev. William Watkins. She was a devout Christian.

A poet, novelist, and journalist, she was also a prominent abolitionist and temperance and women's suffrage activist. She traveled to multiple states to lecture and give speeches about these issues.

In May, 1866, she delivered the speech, "We Are All Bound Up Together" at the National Women's Rights Convention in New York, sharing the stage with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. "You white women speak here of rights," she said. "I speak of wrongs."

With Margaret Murray Washington, the wife of Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, and other prominent African American women, Frances helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president in 1897.

Before marrying Fenton Harper, a widower, with whom Frances had a daughter, she worked at Union Seminary in Ohio, where she taught sewing. Frances died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1911. Her home still stands at 1006 Bainbridge St., Philadelphia, PA.

Frances Harper had a long and prolific writing career and is distinguished as the first African American women to be published in the United States. She published Forest Leaves (1845), her first book of poetry, at age 20. Her collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) became her biggest commercial success. Her short story Two Offers was published in the Anglo-African in 1859 and made literary history as the first short story published by a black woman. At 67, she published her novel Iola Leroy (1892), which was widely praised. Many of her works reflected Christian themes of truth, justice, and redemption.

Genre: poetry

A form of literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm. 

Sample Reading List: Forest Leaves (1845), Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854), the novel Iola Leroy, Shadows Uplifted (1892)

Writer's Prompt - Fun With Words

MWA invites you to have fun writing poetry like Frances Walker. Write a poem of up to 100 words that focuses on a Christian theme.

Submit your 100 words by the 25th of the month and receive an MWA Fun With Words Submission Certificate.  

Submit Your FUN WITH WORDS Prompt

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