Charity BRYANT

Family tree of Charity BRYANT

Poet, Industrialist, Businessman

AmericanBorn Charity BRYANT

American business owner and writer

Born on May 22, 1777 in North Bridgewater, Massachusetts , United States

Died on October 18, 1851 in Weybridge, Vermont , United States

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Charity Bryant (May 22, 1777 – October 6, 1851) was an American business owner and writer. She was a diarist and wrote acrostic poetry. Because there is extensive documentation for the shared lives of Bryant and her partner Sylvia Drake, their diaries, letters and business papers have become an important part of the archive in documenting the history of same-sex couples.

...   Charity Bryant (May 22, 1777 – October 6, 1851) was an American business owner and writer. She was a diarist and wrote acrostic poetry. Because there is extensive documentation for the shared lives of Bryant and her partner Sylvia Drake, their diaries, letters and business papers have become an important part of the archive in documenting the history of same-sex couples.


Biography
Charity Bryant was born on May 22, 1777, in North Bridgewater, Massachusetts to Silence (née Howard) and Phillip Bryant. Her mother died of consumption shortly after her birth. Charity did not know much about her mother, though she wrote many intimate poems of their relationship. The first poem she wrote about her mother, she used words like “tender”, used from her sister’s own point of view.

An excerpt from this poem is as follows: ... And say, was I wrong for to dream
That fortune upon me would shine?
When friends to me smiling did seem

And the tend'rest of Mothers was mine...She was the sister of Peter Bryant, a doctor and later a state legislator, and the aunt of poet William Cullen Bryant. She was a descendant of Francis Cooke through her father's line. As the youngest of at least ten surviving children (including an oldest brother, Oliver, who had enlisted in the Massachusetts militia and died sometime in August of 1776), Bryant was often treated with "affectionate indulgence" by her older siblings, who also instilled in her a love for poetry that would stay with her throughout her life.


Early life
Charity was named after her mother's sister, Charity Howard, who also grew up not to marry - although Bryant did marry eventually - but Howard was still a very close role model to Bryant. Bryant grew to be very similar to Howard throughout her life. Charity had a caretaker, Grace Hayward, who raised her from infancy for about two years until her father remarried. Grace still stayed in her life when Charity would become ill or when her stepmother did not want to care for her. Charity’s stepmother was extremely mean and she only married Phillip to be with Phillip only, she did not want to handle the baggage of children (let alone 10 of them) that were not her own. Charity would later say Grace was like an "ever-kind mother" to her.


Career
Bryant began working as a teacher in 1797 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which allowed her the opportunity to live independently from her father and stepmother, earn her own living, and still protect her reputation. During this time, she formed intimate relationships with several of her fellow teachers, including most notably Lydia Richards, with whom Bryant exchanged a number of poems containing somewhat erotic imagery.
In 1807, she went to visit a friend, Polly Hayward in Weybridge, Vermont and it was there that she was introduced to Polly's sister, Sylvia Drake. The two quickly became partners and worked together in a tailoring business that they ran out of their shared house. Their community, including their relatives, accepted them as a married couple after many years of consistency and courage from both Charity and Sylvia.

Drake discussed their relationship in her diaries: Tuesday- 3 [July]—31 years since I left my mother’s house and commenced serving in company with Dear Miss B. Sin mars all earthly bliss, and no common sinner have I been, but God has spared my life, given me every thing I would enjoy and now I have a space, if I improve it, to exercise true penitence. Bryant’s nephew, William Cullen Bryant, also described their relationship using language that emphasized the depth of the women's relationship: If I were permitted to draw the veil of private life, I would briefly give you the singular, and to me interesting, story of two maiden ladies who dwell in this valley. I would tell you how, in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony, for more than forty years.
Charity and Sylvia’s relationship was treated the same way as any standard marriage between a man and a woman: according to William Cullen Bryant, Bryant was like the "husband," and Drake was her "fond wife." On tax documents and census records, Bryant was always noted as the head of the household. Charity and Sylvia were also active members in their community with Charity being a highly trusted tailor in the fashion business and Sylvia working alongside the business doing seamstress work as well as teaching Sunday school for children. Their community saw them as any other ‘ordinary’, heterosexual couple.


Acrostic Poetry

Acrostic poetry is defined by a poem where each beginning letter of every line spells out a word or message. Charity wrote many poems throughout her lifetime, which she later ordered to be burned after her passing, but the few that remain are mostly written to Sylvia, expressing love and the need to protect her always. Charity would have the poems directed to or for Sylvia spell “Sylvia Drake” with each beginning letter of every line.
Bryant had suffered from poor health since infancy, and her adult years were also plagued with illness. In the summer of 1839, she developed heart disease that would ultimately kill her on October 6, 1851. In her will, Bryant left their shared home entirely to Drake who lived there until 1859.
Bryant and Drake are buried together under a shared headstone at Weybridge Hill Cemetery, Addison County, Vermont.


Notes


References


Citations


Bibliography
Cleves, Rachel Hope (2014). Charity and Sylvia: A Same-sex Marriage in Early America. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-933542-8.
Horowitz, Helen L. (Spring 2015). "Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Cleves (review)". Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 45 (4). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press: 588–589. doi:10.1162/JINH_r_00774. ISSN 0022-1953. S2CID 145538309. Retrieved 18 July 2017 – via Project MUSE.
Washington, Ida H. (1991). History of Weybridge, Vermont. Weybridge Bicentennial Committee.



Biography from Wikipedia (see original) under licence CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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