Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825 to free parents. A few years later, she was orphaned. Harper received her education at a school for free African-Americans run by her uncle, William Watkins. The school was located at the present day site of the Baltimore Convention Center.

At the age of 13, Harper’s formal education came to an end when she took a job as a nursemaid.

Harper’s first publication was a collection of poetry and prose entitled Autumn Leaves. It was published while she was a teenager. Harper moved to Philadelphia. She published another volume of poems entitled Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1857). This work sold over 10,000 copies within its first five years of publication. In 1860, Harper married the love of her life, Fenton Harper. 

In 1869, Harper published Moses, A Story of the Nile. After three years of writing, she published Sketches of Southern Life. Some of her other works include Poems, Atlanta Offering, Effie Alton, Eventide, Idylls of the Bible, and The Sparrow’s Fall. Her only novel is Iola Leroy:On Shadows Uplifted, a book about a wealthy slaveowner who falls in love with and marries an African-American woman.

Harper was, by far, the most popular poet of her time. Her poetry reflected her views on the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and other social ills of her timeperiod.