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Alice and Phoebe Cary were sisters. Both became well known American poets during the middle of the nineteenth century. Alice was born on April 20, 1820, at Mount Healthy, Ohio. Phoebe was born on September 4, 1824. The Cary family earned its living through farming. Their mother encouraged Alice and Phoebe to practice their writing. After her death in 1835, the girls' new stepmother prohibited her stepchildren from engaging in what she though was an idle pursuit. After their stepmother died in 1837, the two women resumed their literary careers.
In 1838, Alice had one of her poems published in a Cincinnati newspaper. Eleven years later, Alice and Phoebe jointly authored Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary. The work received positive reviews, and the two women moved to New York City. The women continued to write. Their poems and other works were published in leading magazines and in several books. Alice was the more prolific writer, but Phoebe's work usually received more favorable reviews. Edgar Allen Poe, a leading American author, poet and literary critic, was an admirer of both women's work. William Holmes McGuffey included several of the women's poems in his McGuffey Reader. The sisters also became active participants in New York's social scene. Alice eventually became the president of the first women's club in the United States.
Alice and Phoebe Cary spent the 1850s and the 1860s in New York. Later in life, Alice became an invalid and lived in great pain. She died February 12, 1871. Grieving and suffering from malaria, Phoebe hoped that the climate of Newport, Rhode Island, would help her recover her health. Phoebe Cary died on July 31, 1871, five months after her sister.
- Clemmer, Mary. A Memorial of Alice and Phoebe Cary. New York, NY: Hurd and Houghton, 1873.