The Obscure Poetess
This website ...
attempts to bring to life the works of women poets who are either totally obscure or relatively unknown today. Many of the women on these pages lived ordinary lives. Some were widely recognized as poets in their day, but have slipped into obscurity with the passage of time. Most were wives, mothers, and self-published poets, but they all have one thing in common; they left for us a trace of their thoughts, feelings, and memories through poetry.
Since most of the women on these pages only published a book or two, their works have been largely lost to the world. (Where a poetess has published in more than one decade, they are placed in the decade when their first book was published.) Here, each poetess of long ago is given her voice again, and readers who visit here can read and enjoy her works. Some of these works have been released to the public domain by the families, others have had their copyrights expire. Still others never obtained a copyright, or the author has died without a surviving heir to the copyright. Many are available for free at the library of Congress archives.
This is a not-for-profit site. No advertisements or items for sale will be included here. The site is simply created out of a love of poetry and a desire to honor poetesses of the past, many of whom never would have dreamed that their work could be or would be enjoyed by future generations. Perhaps these poets will, somewhere, somehow, be pleased that their poems have been brought to light once more.
The site offers an overview of each decade of the first half of the twentieth century to set the stage on which these books of poetry were published. (Don't forget to check out these historical briefs!) On each sub-page of a decade, you will meet an American poetess who published in a year between 1900 and 1959. (Placement based on their first year of publication) The only exception is Marcia Knight who is British, but as she was the impetus for this project in the first place, she remains a part of it.
All available information on each poetess is given, though for many there is little information that I have discovered about them. If any visitor to these pages knows anything about any one of these women that is not included here, please do share it so that it can be added. (email@example.com) And take a moment to leave your thoughts about the website on my guestbook !!
Your Hostess and Obscure Poetess,
Katharine L. Sparrow
How this site came to be...
Marcia Knight's Milestones was the first book in my collection of poetry by obscure women poets. I received it as a gift from my brother at his wedding in 2012 when I was asked to write a poem, which I read at the ceremony. I was very taken by the poems Marcia had written, and was astonished to find some information on her and her family, including a photo, on the Rushden, England website, the town where Marcia lived. As a poet myself, I felt somehow connected to Marcia through her poetry and my research on her. Thereafter I began my collection of poetry books by little-known women, which continues to grow. My interest in genealogical research blends here with my love of poetry in that I try to discover whatever can be found in the records about the life of each poetess on these pages.
Below is a poem I wrote to Marcia. It could easily be dedicated to every poetess, lovingly remembered, on these pages.
To Marcia Knight
Dear poet, your small book has come to me,
though long the years since first you wrote each page.
Somehow it found its way across the sea,
and brought your words into the modern age.
The way you thought, the beauty you had seen
in England's country villages and lanes
now reaches out, with whispers in between.
The poet's rhyme, her legacy, remains.
I ride the sunlit breezes of your words.
I coast the ocean of your memories.
Your laughter mingles with the song of birds
that flitter through your verse of flowering trees.
I wish that somehow I could tell you now,
a hundred years past when your book was new,
that somehow you could understand just how
I read your poems and discovered you.
Through centuries and from a distant land,
we poets walk together, hand in hand.
Katharine L. Sparrow
Navigate to the decades and poetesses via the
navigation bar up top!
.... or click here for Next Page: 1900's
More coming soon to this site!!
(last updated July 2020)
Harriet Spangler Shelley (1910's)
Carrie A. Gregory (1910's)
Elsie Janis (1920's)
Mary Allen Keller (1920's)
Maida McCartney (1920's)
Florence Kane Rafftery (1920's)
Virginia Taylor McCormick (1930's)
Nellie S Richardson (1930's)
Nelle Barnes (1930's)
Edith Hecht (1930's)
Nell Lauderback (1930's)
Esther Pinch (1930's)
Betty Wilson Miller (1940's)
Janet Lewis (1940's)
Helen Bergen (1940's)
Irma Wassall (1940's)
Pearl Wallace Chappell (1940's)
Kathryn Kay (1940's)
Edna Thornburg (1940's)
Irma Young Paul (1950's)
Clara M. Bode (1950's)
Elberta Leisure (1950's)
The Poetry Foundation: poetry resources, audio & visual, poets and poems, and their online magazine
The Poet's Corner: poets and their poetry, all indexed, with many photos of famous poets
Shadow Poetry: lots of info about poetry including descriptions of types of poetry with examples
Poetry Platter: new site with lots of poetry resources, information, and help for poets
All Poetry: post your own poetry and comment on others' poems - a poetry community
My Author/Poet Website: klSparrow.com