Hello, and happy Wednesday! This week’s Women in History Crush Wednesday strays a bit from the norm, as she didn’t have much to do with any aspect of advocacy or the political world, and that’s okay! In choir for the past several weeks we’ve been working on the song “There Will Be Rest,” an absolutely beautiful piece, and today in rehearsal we discussed the meanings of the poem that serves as the lyrics and the biography of the poet. Before we go on, I’d like to dedicate this post to my amazing choir director, Mrs. Wilson, who has helped me grow immensely these past four years, as a musician and as an individual. Thank you for everything you do for both me and the incredible choir program at our school, you’re a rock star! Now, without further ado, this week’s WCW is great American poet Sara Teasdale.
Born on August 8th, 1884 in St. Louis, Missouri, Teasdale was the youngest child of her three other siblings. This, in addition to her inexplicably constant sickly state, led to Teasdale growing up in an extremely sheltered atmosphere. She never had to help with chores, was home-schooled, and mainly only held communication with the adults in her family. However, because she never had to partake in unpleasant activities, Teasdale became enthralled with the beautiful things in life, and often described herself as “a flower in a toiling world.” At age ten, Teasdale was finally introduced to children her age when she was enrolled in Miss Ellen Dean Lockwood’s School for Girls and Boys. She attended the Mary Institute Day School for her high school career before transferring to and graduating from Hosmer Hall in 1902. During high school, Teasdale began writing poetry and received her first publication in a local newspaper. Within ten years, she published over eight collections of her poems, most notably Helen of Troy and Other Poems.
In 1914, Teasdale married Ernst Filsinger. While they had a seemingly happy marriage, Teasdale filed for divorce in 1929, and the two supposedly never spoke again. However, if you were to visit Teasdale’s grave(shown below), you’d see the surname Filsinger; Teasdale’s sister went against her wish to have her ashes scattered and instead did what she felt proper, which included adding the “Filsinger” to her headstone.
During their marriage and even more so following their divorce, Teasdale dedicated herself to her poetry. She published numerous collections, including Love Songs, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1918. Her poetry generally focused on seeing the beautiful aspects of life through the darkness – she drew heavily from the lonely but “pretty” experiences of her childhood for inspiration. Teasdale’s poems were well received in her life time, but in fairly recent years have been written off as overly simplistic, thus diminishing her ranking as a great poet amongst scholars.
In late 1932, Teasdale contracted chronic pneumonia, which increased her frailty and sickliness, and weakened her mind and spirit. She fell into a depression, which ended her ability to find the glamorous things in life. On January 29th, 1933, at the age of forty eight, Teasdale committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates (anxiety pills). Later that year, her final collection, Strange Victory, was published, which to this day continues to remain as one of her most significant works.
Teasdale’s works are still widely enjoyed today, both in their original form and in choral adaptations. Additionally, author Ray Bradbury references her poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” in his short story under the same title. The strongest messages to take away from her poems include that of hope in dark times, which have so far stood the tests of time.
To learn more about Sara Teasdale’s somewhat mysterious life, check out her biographies on the Poetry Foundation, PoemHunter, and Academy of American Poets sites, where many of her poems can also be found.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!