Longfellow, Alice M. (Alice Mary), 1850-1928Variant names
Born 22 September 1850 to Henry Wadsworth and Frances Appleton Longfellow, Alice Longfellow lived a privileged life with her family in Cambridge, enjoying her studies and developing a love of travel after a visit to Maine in 1863, when she was only 12 years old. After the death of her mother in 1861, Longfellow took on something of a caretaker role to her two younger sisters, earning her the depiction of "grave Alice" in her father's famous poem, The Children's Hour. At the age of 21, Alice Longfellow came into her inheritance from her mother, a fortune worth $131,755.45, which allowed her financial independence and the freedom to make her own decisions regarding her future.
Growing up, Longfellow received a thorough education for young ladies at Miss C. S. Lyman's School, and later Professor Williston's School. In 1879, at 28 years old, she became the youngest member of a committee of women then known as The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women, working to establish a Harvard Annex for women. The Annex held special classes for women taught by Harvard professors. Longfellow served as treasurer of the Annex from 1883–1891. Her love of education led her to offer the Craigie House library for the Society's commencements of the Society, which eventually become Radcliffe College. Her affiliation with the school continued throughout her life. She attended classes through the Society until 1890, with a year off spent at Newnham College in Cambridge, England, in 1883-1884. Alice later functioned as a Radcliffe administrator by serving on the executive committee, the Board of Trustees, and as treasurer from 1883 to 1891.
Longfellow traveled extensively throughout her life, visiting Canada,the United Kingdom and several countries in Europe. She met with Benito Mussolini on October 24, 1927, at Palazzo Chigi and presented him with a copy of her father's translation of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Longfellow was sympathetic to the Fascist cause, writing a paper circa 1923 entitled "The Fascisti As I Saw Them" in which she praises Mussolini's work as leader of Italy.
Longfellow traveled extensively throughout her life, visiting Canada, the United Kingdom and several countries in Europe. She met with Benito Mussolini on October 24, 1927, at Palazzo Chigi and presented him with a copy of her father's translation of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Longfellow was sympathetic to the Fascist cause, writing a paper circa 1923 entitled "The Fascisti As I Saw Them" in which she praises Mussolini's work as leader of Italy..
Longfellow shared her love of travel with students through the creation of a traveling fellowship for Radcliffe graduates. She also donated books and supplies for the institution's first library and enlisted her cousin Alexander to design several of its first buildings. In 1899, Alice Longfellow paid her cousin to redesign Fay House, the first building owned by Radcliffe college. When the organization was officially acquired by Harvard in 1893, then President Charles William Eliot wished to name the college after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but Alice, a member of the founding committee, suggested they should find another namesake who had been more committed to the education of women.
Alice Longfellow continued her legacy by donating money for Longfellow Hall, built in 1930, and her passion for education led her to contribute to charitable and volunteer activities involving education. She served as a member of the Cambridge School Committee from 1887 to 1892; provided scholarship funds for Black and Indigenous students at Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes, and also donated money and time to schools for the blind.
Longfellow's philanthrophic career was also focused on the preservation of American antiquities, promoting educational opportunities for disenfranchised groups, and supporting the Allied forces during World War I.
Longfellow took an active interest in the history of the United States, possibly inspired by growing up at Craigie House, which had served as headquarters for General George Washington from July 1775 to April 1776. In 1876, when she was about 25 years old, she went to the Centennial International Exposition with her father and two sisters in Philadelphia for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. She later became extremely knowledable about the history of Craigie House and often read a paper she had written on the subject to local historical societies. Longfellow was active in preservation efforts at Mount Vernon and served as Massachusetts vice-regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association for forty-eight years. In 1896 Longfellow held the 120th wedding anniversary of George and Martha Washington in the Longfellow House by reenacting the Washington's supposed Twelfth Night party held in 1776.
During World War I, she donated to the American Fund for French Wounded in 1919, the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris from 1915–1916, the Layette Fund from 1915–1919, the Serbian Hospital Fund in 1917, the American Memorial Hospital at Rheims from 1919–1928, the American Ouvrior Funds from 1918–1928, as well as the American Committee for War Relief in Florence in 1916. Longfellow also corresponded with the Paris-based Committee for Men Blinded in Battle. In 1915, she donated to the American Ambulance Field Service, which named Ambulance No. 88 named in her honor.
Longfellow served as a member of various other committees as well: the Audubon Society (1886–1915),the American Association for Highway Improvement (1912), the Daughters of the American Revolution (1901), the Massachusetts Historical Society (1916), and the National Geographic Society (1919). Longfellow was also a governing member of The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, today known as Historic New England from its inception in 1910 until her death.
Longfellow published a four-page sketch of her father in 1882 following his death, entitled "Longfellow in Home Life". She worked to preserve and promote the poet's legacy. Alice and her sister Anne saw the dedication of their father's bust in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey in London in 1884, the only American-born American to have the honor. Alice commissioned the Thomas Brock, the bust's artist, to make an exact replica for Longfellow House library. Longfellow was invited to visit the Ojibwe people in Ontario, Canada in 1900 in recognition of her father's favorable representation of the tribe in The Song of Hiawatha (1855). Alice and her surviving siblings were made honorary members of the tribe. She traveled with two of her sisters to New Kensington and attended a pageant based on the book performed by members of the Garden River First Nation.
In 1913, The Longfellow House Trust was created by the surviving children of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and their spouses to preserve the home of their father for its historical significance so that it could remain for future generations as a monument to his life and work. The first indenture of the Trust provided that Alice Longfellow be the live-in caretaker of the house as long as she would like, a position she retained until her death in 1928. Longfellow went on to donate an additional $50,000.00 to the Trust in her will for the purpose of ensuring that future Longfellow descendants could live in the Longfellow House if they so desired. The Trust took care of the house until 1972 when the house was transferred by the trustees to the National Park Service so that it could become a National Historic Site.
While at home in Cambridge, Longfellow led an active social life. She maintained friendships with the wives of some of her father's friends, such as Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz, the wife of the natural historian and Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, and Annie Adams Fields, the wife of her father's publisher, James T. Fields of Ticknor and Fields. Also of note are her friendships with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Longfellow had close relationships with many family members, such as her cousins Mary King Longfellow, the landscape painter and travel companion, and Alexander Wadsworth "Waddy" Longfellow Jr. one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Longfellow had enough wealth so she never needed to take a husband. Interpreters at the Longfellow House have examined information Longfellow left behind and now understand her to have been queer. She spent a great deal of time with a close female friend, Fanny Stone, daughter of a Republican politician from Massachusetts. Longfellow and Stone frequently corresponded while Stone was living in Washington, D.C. with her father. Stone's letters reveal a strong romantic attachment to Alice and their relationship was one of the most important and significant of Longfellow's life. The pair travelled together for over forty years and Stone often visited while visiting her sister down the street. Their letters reveal a close, intimate relationship between two women who loved each other deeply.
Alice Mary Longfellow died on December 7, 1928. She was 78 years old. Her body was cremated and buried in the family plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Voyages and travels|
|Children of authors|
|Historic buildings--Conservation and restoration|
|Indians of North America--Education|
|Women authors, American|
|Women civic leaders--Massachusetts|