Lucy Larcom [my 1st cousin 5x removed] was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, on March 5, 1824. She was the daughter of Benjamin and Lois Barrett Larcom; great granddaughter of David Larcom, and descendant of Mordecai Larcom, born in 1629, who appeared in Ipswich in 1655, and soon after removed to Beverly where he obtained a grant of land. Lucy’s father, was at her birth a retired sea-captain. Her mother, a homemaker, took care of all the children, 10 in total.
Lucy grew up on Wallis Lane, with her family all nearby. She truly felt at home in Beverly. She says in her autobiography, A New England Girlhood, “If I had opened my eyes upon this planet elsewhere than in this northeastern corner of Massachusetts, elsewhere than on this green, rocky strip of shore between Beverly Bridge and the Misery Islands, it seems to me as if I must have been somebody else, and not myself.” She was a very intelligent child, at the age of two she was learning her letters at “Aunt Hannah’s” school and was reading at two and a half.
She had many wonderful memories of living on Wallis Lane. Playing outdoors, picking wildflowers, exploring riverbeds, looking at the vast ocean, and listening to fairy tales from her sisters. It was at the time of her father’s death, in 1832, that her childhood was forever changed.
Struggling to manage the family’s finances, her sisters were forced into the workplace as tailors and the younger girls, Lucy included, had to maintain the housework. Lucy’s mother, however, decided at that time to move the family to Lowell to manage a boardinghouse for one of the mills. This is where Lucy attended school for a couple of years and then worked in the mills, first in the spinning room and after five years, as a bookkeeper in the cloth room. This was a life of hard work, and the only real escape was writing articles and poems for a small paper issued by her sister, Emeline. In 1843, after reading one of her poems, she attracted the attention of John Greenleaf Whittier, with whom she developed a life-long friendship.
Her sister, Emeline, decided to move to the Illinois prairie with her new husband, George Spaulding. Lucy, caught up in their dreams, tagged along into the West in 1846. They settled close to St. Louis, and she taught at some local schools before entering Monticello Female Seminary as a half-student, half-teacher. She graduated in 1852 and returned to Beverly. She then went on to become a formal teacher at Wheaton Seminary in Norton, MA. She taught English Literature, Moral Philosophy, Logic, History and Botany while at Wheaton, and it was at this time that she started writing prolifically and also editing some books. After leaving Norton because of her failing health, Lucy became assistant editor to the Boston magazine, “Our Young Folks,” in 1865. Becoming editor-in-chief only a year later, Lucy conducted the magazine until 1874. Her works were also published in many other leading periodicals of her time, such as: The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, and The New England Magazine.
Lucy was a strong abolitionist and patriot, and she rejoiced over the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. The Civil War was upon them, and to sum up her feelings about it all, this excerpt from a letter she wrote to John G. Whittier explains: “I know you do not believe in war: neither do I, it is barbarous, it is hateful; and yet forced upon us as this is, there is an instinct of resistance to wrong within us all, the trumpet-call of Nature itself that drowns at once all previous beliefs and theories. If ever there was a cause for fighting, there is now; and I am not sure but that a bloody struggle would be most humane, as it would be brief.”
Lucy lived to be with her family, friends and students. She never married; although, she came close to marrying at one time, but even he couldn’t take her away from her beloved Beverly. She died in Boston on April 17, 1893.
Lucy has been a light in my life. A strong human being with such conviction. I feel a lot of her in myself. She has always been my hero even before I knew for sure that she was my distant cousin, five generations ago.