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Born the oldest child of a wealthy Boston merchant on June 22, 1822, Dall had full charge of a household that included a father, invalid mother, and seven siblings, when she was only 17. She was torn between her duties to family, and an expanding religious consciousness. Writing Sunday School lessons and teaching at the West Church of Boston, helped initiate her into a stimulating intellectual environment. Even as a young woman she realized that an independent woman would be scorned by society, when she wrote in her diary in 1839, “how strange that when once a woman’s earnest convictions are given to the world, the world seems to doubt her humanity.” After marrying Charles Dall in 1844, she assisted him in his ministries, and bore two children, but her marriage was not a happy one. When he left for a Unitarian mission to India in 1855, she remained behind, and only saw him a few times during the next 30 years.
Caroline Dall was already a staunch women’s rights activist. During the next few years she was coeditor of The Una, and also published two collections of lectures she had given: Woman’s Right to Labor, or Low Wages and Hard Work and Woman’s Rights Under the Law. Her most important work came out n 1867, The College, the Market, and the Court; or, Woman’s Relation to Education, Labor, and Law. Dall argued that only work would give women the full human dignity they deserved. Going far beyond a plea for suffrage, she identified the cultural and legal barriers that confronted women everywhere. Especially interested in recovering historical examples, she published Historical Pictures Retouched, to show the type of achievement women were capable of. Dall’s fight for equal rights and opportunities for women continued thought her life. Later in life she published an account of Margaret Fuller’s conversations, and a history of Transcendentalism.
She died on December 17, 1912.
Related Resources in the Harvard Square Library Collection
The Biography of Charles Henry Appleton Dall