Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Lydia Huntley Sigourney
"In early childhood you may lay the foundation of poverty or riches, industry or idleness, good or evil, by the habits to which you train your children. Teach them right habits then, and their future is safe."
- Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Induction Category:
Writers & Journalists

Born: 1791

Died: 1865

Inducted: 1994

Town: Hartford

The “Sweet Singer of Hartford,” for whom Sigourney Street was named, was one of the first American women to succeed at a literary career. A teacher, born in Norwich, Conn., Lydia Huntley moved to Hartford at the invitation of Daniel Wadsworth to open a school for the daughters of his friends. With her marriage to Charles Sigourney in 1819 came financial stability, allowing her to give up teaching and devote herself full-time to writing. At the request of her husband, Sigourney’s work was published anonymously. She used proceeds from her writing to contribute to charitable causes, including the temperance movement, peace societies, Greek war relief and the work of missionaries at home and abroad. In Traits of the Aborigines of America (1822), she turned Indian tales into blank verse urging conversion of Native Americans to Christianity.

When her husband's business began to fail, Sigourney sold poems and sketches to magazines. After the success of Letters to Young Ladies (1833), her most popular prose work, she abandoned anonymity despite her husband's objections. Within a year she had published eight other volumes, including Poems (1834), a collection of her verse that was reprinted three times. Her popularity was so great that rival publishers competed for her work. Death and piety were her favorite subjects; her rhyming of pious truisms had a wide appeal. In addition, her work inspired other young women to become poets.

Sigourney went abroad in 1840 where she was received by William Wordsworth, had tea with Thomas Carlyle and was presented at the court of Louis Philippe. Between 1840 and 1850, Sigourney published fourteen more collections of her poetry.

Her celebrity reached its height with the 1849 publication of her Illustrated Poems in a sumptuously bound, gilt-edged edition. She continued to write almost a volume a year until her death.

During This Time
1800 - 1920: Industrialization & Reform