Frances Ella Watkins was born free in Baltimore. It was on September 24, 1825. She was orphaned by age three. Watkins’ aunt and uncle raised her. Her uncle had formed Watkins Academy for Negro Youth. She attended his school.
At age 20 Harper wrote her first book of poetry. It was Forest Leaves.
Ms. Watkins married Fenton M. Harper in 1860. They moved to a small farm near Colubus, Ohio. There they had a daughter, Mary, in 1862. Fenton Harper died in 1864. Ms. Harper is most often known as F.E.W. Harper.
She was head of the Colored Section of the PA Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
F.E.W. Harper was co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women. Not to be confused with the similar group. It’s the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. (It still exists.) She was also the head of the American Association of Colored Youth.
F.E.W. Harper died February 22, 1911, in Philadelphia.
By Ms. Harper
- Atlanta Offering: Poems. 1895
- Forest Leaves, poems. 1845 (Also published as Autumn Leaves.)
- Free Labor. 1857
- Idylls of the Bible. 1901
- In Memoriam, Wm. McKinley. 1901
- Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted. 1892 (Novel)
- Light Beyond the Darkness. 1890
- Minnie’s Sacrifice. (Serially published in Christian Recorder.)
- Moses: A Story of the Nile. 1869
- Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects. 1854 (Introduction by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.)
- Sketches of Southern Life. 1872
- Sowing and Reaping 1876
- The Martyr of Alabama and Other Poems. 1894
- The Two Offers. 1859
- The Sparrow’s Fall and Other Poems .1894
- Trial and Triumph (Serially published in Christian Recorder.)
About Ms. Harper
- Boyd, M. Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E. W. Harper, 1825–1911. Wayne State U Press.
- Cutter, M. The Politics of Hybridity in Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy. In Unruly Tongue: Identity and Voice in American Women’s Writing 1850 – 1930, U Press MS. Pp. 141–160.
- Ernest, J. Chapter 6: Unsolved Mysteries and Emerging Histories: Frances E. Harper’s Iola Leroy. In Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-century African American Literature, U Press MS. Pp. 180–207.
- Field, C. Frances E. W. Harper and the Politics of Intellectual Maturity. In Bay, M. et al. (eds), Toward An Intellectual History of Black Women. U NC Press. Pp. 110–126.
- Gardner, E. Sowing and Reaping: A “New” Chapter from Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Second Novel. Commonplace, 13(1).
- Jones, M. Vanguard. Basic Books.
- McKnight, U. Frances E. W Harper. A call to conscience. Medford, PA: Polity Press.
- Parker, A. Articulating Rights. Nineteenth-Century American Women on Race, Reform, and the State. Rev in J Civil War Era, 2(3), 97–138.
- Shockley, A. Afro American Women Writers 1746–1933. An Anthology and Critical Guide. New Haven, CT: Meridian Books.
- Zack, I. Overlooked No More: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Poet and Suffragist. New York Times, Feb 7, 2023.