”Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.”
- Lydia Maria Child
OK. Technically this is a Thanksgiving poem, so I’m late. But I associate it with the Winter Holidays in general. And this is what I learned today:
This very well-known poem was written by a woman, Lydia Maria Child (1802 - 1880). She was one of the first women in America to earn a living writing. She wrote domestic advice books and published a children’s magazine - which is where the poem first appeared. She was an anti-slavery activist and is considered by some to be the first white person to have written a book urging the emancipation of slaves. She actively supported Native American rights and her novel, Hobomok, published in 1824, was noteworthy for it’s sympathetic portrayal of a Native American character. Not surprisingly, Child was also a women’s rights activist - but she considered women’s rights as an issue that could not make progress until after slavery had been abolished. In her day, this woman was considered a radical and her writing was important to the movements in which she was involved.
I find it interesting that this poem is the one piece of Lydia Maria Child's work that has endured in the public awareness (so fully that it has remained popular for well over 150 years). This woman accomplished so much, but she is remembered for an innocent children’s ditty.
Lydia Maria Child was a Unitarian Universalist and a more comprehensive biography of her can be found here at the UU online dictionary. The full text of the poem can be found here.