This week Mae Macfarlane interviews Dr. Alexis Easley from the St. Thomas English department about her research into the life and times of poet, author, editor, trailblazer, Eliza Cook.
While her name has been mostly forgotten, Eliza Cook (1818-1889) was arguably one of the most popular poets in the United States and England from the mid 1830's to the mid 1850's. Much of her poetry fit the tastes of the time which were rather sentimental and focused on conventional values of love, domesticity, and faith. However, her personal life was quite different. She was an out lesbian who did not conform to the ideals of Victorian beauty or fashion.
By the end of the 19th century her reputation diminished, people lost track of her edgy persona.
However, in the 1980's and 90's people rediscovered her works that championed working classes, feminism, and they celebrated her career as a magazine editor during a time when print journalism was reaching mass audiences for the first time.
To learn more about Eliza Cook and other women poets and their fascinating times, check out Alexis Easley's book New media and the rise of the popular woman writer, 1832-1860. Available via the UST libraries here.