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Mary Abigail Dodge Papers, 1834-1896, undated

Identifier: MSS 12

Scope and Content Note

The Mary Abigail Dodge Papers consist of correspondence and writings for this American writer and essayist who wrote under the pen name of Gail Hamilton. The collection is divided into two series.

Series I. Correspondence is separated into correspondence written by Mary Abigail Dodge to editors, friends, and fans, and correspondence sent to Mary Abigail Dodge. Subseries A. Correspondence from Mary Abigail Dodge mostly concerns the publication of her work, discussing article topics, pay, etc. There are few letters concerning her political or moral views, although an 11 January 1869 letter to Fessenden discusses women's suffrage, and there is a series of letters in 1889-91 to the wife of President Benjamin Harrison concerning two criminal cases. Typed transcripts of these letters to Mrs. Harrison will be found in Box 1, Folder 14.

Subseries B. Correspondence to Mary Abigail Dodge spans the years 1856 to 1896. It includes such items as a letter from John S. C. Abbott asking Dodge for a chapter on emancipation for his book on the Civil War; a number of letters expressing enthusiasm over women's rights (a view with which Dodge was not in total agreement); a letter from William Lloyd Garrison discussing politics in the United States; a letter from Benjamin F. Butler asking Dodge to be on the Board of the State Work House, a reformatory in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, for poor and unfortunate women; and a letter from Lloyd Bryce at The North American discussing publishing, and praising Dodge's writings. A letter from Rose Hawthorne gives a muffin "receipt" (recipe). A letter from Una Hawthorne was written very shortly after her father's death, commenting on how the family was just beginning to deal with his death. There are nearly twenty letters from Sophia Hawthorne (the entire Hawthorne family were friends with Dodge), one written shortly after Nathaniel's death, in which Sophia's interest in Spiritualism is clear, and a series written during the summer of 1868 concerning Sophia's problems with the publishing firm of Ticknor & Fields. A July 12, 1868 letter of Sophia's makes clear her view about women's rights, which she was not in favor of.

Many letters deal with Mary A. Dodge's interest in the murder trial of Mrs. Maybrick in Great Britain. A letter from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. describes his desire not to take a stand on the Maybrick case. A letter from William P. Frye, in the Senate in Washington, discusses the annexation of Hawaii and the digging of the Nicaragua Canal. Many of the letters grant Dodge permission to quote from letters sent by them to James G. Blaine in her Biography of James G. Blaine. A number of letters in 1895 were addressed to Miss H. Augusta Dodge, who was caring for her sister after Mary's stroke. A letter at this time from John S. Sewall of the Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary requested a letter back from Dodge in which she would describe what it was like to almost die and what her impression of heaven was.

A complete list of correspondents will be found in Appendix I.

Series II. Writings and Miscellaneous Papers includes poems and prose writings of Dodge, as well as some miscellaneous correspondence. Some of Dodge's works represented in this series include "Benevolence," "The Importance of Education," and a draft of "Woman's Place in the Republic." There is a printed form of a "Voluntary Prayer" written by Gail Hamilton for the Essex Agricultural Society program of 1861. Also included in this series is an autograph collection, with many signatures of prominent individuals of the time. There are also two notebooks of essays and poetry written by Mary Abigail Dodge between the years 1841 and 1855. Some of the writings from notebook one include "The Character of a Good Scholar" (1841), "The Bridal and the Funeral" (1847), and "A Short Sermon of a Lay Priestess 'Young Men and Maidens' " (1849). The second notebook contains writings of Dodge while at the Ipswich Female Seminary in 1850. "A Metrical Romance in Five Cantos" translated from the German of Goethe by Henry W. Longfellow is copied into the volume.


  • Creation: 1834-1896, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Mary Abigail Dodge, or "Gail Hamilton," the pen name under which she wrote, was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, on 31 March 1833, the youngest child of James Brown Dodge, a farmer, and his wife, Hannah (Stanwood) Dodge, a schoolteacher. Mary Abigail Dodge took her early education at the Hamilton public school; she was later a student at and a graduate of the Ipswich Female Seminary. She taught school for a number of years at the Ipswich Female Seminary, and then at schools in Hartford, Connecticut.

Mary Abigail Dodge went to Washington, D.C. in 1858 as governess to the children of Gamaliel Bailey, the editor of the antislavery newspaper, National Era. It was in Washington that she began to establish herself as a writer, taking the pen name "Gail Hamilton" because of her dislike of personal publicity. She returned to Hamilton in 1860 to care for her ailing mother (who died in 1868); it was during this period that she edited, along with J. T. Trowbridge and Lucy Larcom, Our Young Folks. The 1860s and 1870s saw the publication of many works by her, and she made numerous contributions to the Atlantic Monthly, The Congregationalist, and the Independent, as well as other journals. In 1870, she published Battle of the Books, a cleverly written description of the mishandling of her accounts by her former editor, James T. Fields.

By 1871, Mary Dodge was spending the winters in Washington, D.C., with the James G. Blaines. Blaine was a Republican leader and Speaker of the House; his wife was Mary Dodge's first cousin. In company with the Blaines, Dodge mixed with important political and literary cliques in Washington. Mary Abigail Dodge held strong political views that she was able to exert through her contacts in Washington, and she published numerous political articles of her own. While Dodge did not support women's suffrage, thinking it was not the most effective way for women to influence change, she spent most of her life trying to improve the status of women through her writing. In 1895, while finishing up a biography of Blaine, Mary Abigail Dodge had a stroke. She recovered enough to return to Hamilton, but died there of a cerebral hemorrhage on 17 August 1896. She never married and had no children.


0.5 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The Mary Abigail Dodge Papers consist of correspondence and writings for this American writer and essayist who wrote under the pen name of Gail Hamilton.

Series List

SERIES I. Correspondence

  • A. Correspondence from Mary Abigail Dodge
  • B. Correspondence to Mary Abigail Dodge
SERIES II. Writings and Miscellaneous Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The bulk of the collection was a gift from the Abbie T. Bowen estate in 1941. Other items were purchased in 1936, 1949, 1953, and 1996. The provenance of each item, if known, is marked in pencil on the item.

Bibliography and Related Collections

Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930, pp. 350-51.

Notable American Women 1607-1950, vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 493-95.

Pulsifer, Janice Goldsmith. "Gail Hamilton," Essex Institute Historical Collections, 104 (July 1968): 165-216.

Appendix I

Processing Information

Collection processed by Jane Ward, Daniel Curtis, September 1991. Revised by Jane Ward, September 2002.

MARY ABIGAIL DODGE (1833-1896) PAPERS, 1834-1896
Processed by: Jane Ward, Daniel Curtis; Revised by: Jane Ward; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA