Choice Angela Morgan Analysis Essay

Very little is known about her early life. She was born Nina Lillian Morgan, but adopted the name Angela after she began writing. Her date and place of birth are not known, but her obituary in the New York Times seems to indicate that she was born around 1873 when her family was living in Yazoo County, Mississippi. In 1915, when she went abroad, she claimed to have been born in 1885, but that conflicts with her comments elsewhere about remembering Washington, D.C. as her childhood home. (The family left Washington around 1885.) On a later trip she gave her date of birth as 1889, but she published her first book in 1898 and was married in 1900, so the 1873 date may be correct.

Angela's father was Colonel Albert Talmon Morgan, a native of New York who was raised on a farm near Fox Lake, Wisconsin. His studies at Oberlin College and the Quaker ancestry of his mother apparently led him to strong anti-slavery views which caused him to drop out of college and enlist in the Union Army in 1861. He served throughout the Civil War, rose steadily through the ranks, and was finally mustered out as a Lieutenant Colonel on July 14, 1865.

Soon after the war, Albert and his brother Charles became "carpetbaggers" in Mississippi, taking over an old plantation. Albert later told the story of his adventures in Mississippi politics during Reconstruction in his book Yazoo, or On the Picket Line of Freedom in the South (New York: Russell and Russell, 1968) which was originally published in 1884. This book details his problems in the South, many of which resulted from his marriage to Carolyn Victoria Highgate, a teacher in a Freedman's Bureau school who was a daughter of a mulatto father and a white mother.

With the end of Reconstruction in 1876, the family was forced to leave the South. Albert received a minor patronage position in the federal pension service at Washington, D.C., as a result of his loyalty to the Republican Party. This job lasted until 1885, when the Democrats regained power and Albert was replaced. The family then moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where Albert was unsuccessful in a number of business ventures. Around 1890, he left his family in Topeka, Kansas and went to Colorado to prospect for gold and silver. Except for occasional visits with his family, he remained in Colorado until his death in 1922.

After Albert left his family, his children began earning their livelihood by performing on stage. The four daughters performed as a quartet and the son, Bert, as baritone and manager for the group. At one time, they appeared as "The Morgans" and later the four girls performed as the "Angela Sisters". (Perhaps it was from here that Nina got the name Angela.) The performing career of the Morgans apparently came to an end with the death of Helen in 1898. Soon thereafter the other three daughters married and retired from the stage.

In the late 1890's Angela succeeded in getting a number of poems and two children's books published and turned her energies toward a writing career. Convinced that it would take some time before she could earn a living as a poet, she worked for a number of years as a journalist in Chicago, Boston, and New York. As part of her work she visited police courts and jails and the slums of the larger cities and came into contact with "the so-called lower strata of society". During this time she was also successful in getting a large number of poems and short stories published in the popular magazines of the time.

Although the Morgans had been Congregationalists before the turn of the century, Angela's mother (who lived with her) became interested in some of the new religious currents and became a Christian Science lecturer. Angela seems to have explored Swedenborgianism, the Bahai faith, and other religions at this time and throughout her career took a strong interest in metaphysics

Angela Morgan was married in 1900 to Peter Sweningson, but she apparently did not find that marriage suited her. The marriage ended fairly quickly, although they were not divorced until 1906. After leaving her husband, she lived with her mother in Chicago, Boston and New York until 1923, when they moved to London. After her mother's death in London in 1926, Angela returned to the United States and settled in Philadelphia.

Around 1914 Angela's literary work came to the attention of three wealthy women--Mrs. Emily Vanderbilt Sloane Hammond, Mrs. Kate M. Ladd, and Mrs. Louise W. Carnegie (the wife of Andrew Carnegie). They provided her with the support she needed in order to give up her newspaper work and devote all of her energies to the writing of poetry. Her first book of poetry was published in 1914 and other volumes followed in quick succession. Many of the poems in these books were published first in such popular magazines as The Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan Magazine and Hearst's Magazine. Among her best known poems were "Hail Man," "Work, a Song of Triumph," "The Battle Cry of the Mothers," and "God Prays."

The outside financial support she received was never enough to make life easy for her, however. Besides supporting her mother and sending occasional sums of money to her father, she had to provide much of the support for her two sisters who were in a sanatorium. The Depression finally made her financial situation so bad that she was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1933. Although things improved somewhat after that time, her financial situation was never too strong. Although her career probably peaked in the era from 1914 to 1930, she continued to write and publish poetry right down to her death in 1957.

The Angela Morgan papers document her long career as a twentieth century writer and social reformer. The collection includes extensive correspondence files, biographical and personal files, drafts of writings, pamphlets, newspaper clippings and other papers relating to her activities as a pacifist and her literary interests; also material on World War I peace movement concerning International Congress of Women, Ford Peace Ship, American Neutral Conference Committee, Emergency Peace Federation, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Bureau of Legal First Aid, People's Council of America and New York City branch of the Woman's Peace Party; also scattered papers, 1861-1922, of her father, Albert T. Morgan, who came to Mississippi after the Civil War; and photographs.

The collection contains much information on organizations such as the General Federation of Women's Clubs, (she served as poet laureate of this organization in the 1930's), the League of American Pen Women (she served as president of the Philadelphia branch from 1929 to 1931) and the Poetry Society of America.

Throughout her long career Angela Morgan kept up a correspondence with ministers (such as Fred Winslow Adams, Charles F. Aked, Harry Emerson Fosdick, John Haynes Holmes, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Frederick Lynch, John Herman Randall and Arthur Weatherly), journalists and magazine editors (such as Kendall Banning, William F. Bigelow, Sewell Haggard, and Franklin B. Wiley) and literary people (such as Anita Browne, Ralph Cheyney, Edwin Markham, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, Lucia Trent and Ella Wheeler Wilcox).

Another valuable aspect of the paper is the material on Angela Morgan's involvement in the peace movement, especially during World War I. Her involvement was apparently due both to the fact that she agreed with many of the ideas of the pacifists and the fact that her office was in the same building (70 Fifth Avenue in New York) which housed the headquarters of almost every significant peace group in New York City. Included in her correspondence are letters from Crystal Eastman, Margaret Lane, Rebecca Shelley, Norman Thomas, the American Neutral Conference Committee, the Bureau of Legal First Aid, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Woman's Peace Party. One folder from 1915 contains notes on interviews with German pacifists conducted by Angela Morgan and Rebecca Shelley. The collection also contains much information on the International Congress of Women in 1915 (a meeting of pacifists to which Angela was a delegate) and the Ford Peace Ship.

Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed.   The Second Book of Modern Verse.  
I rather have the thought of you
To hold against my heart,
My spirit to be taught of you
With west winds blowing,
Than all the warm caresses
Of another love’s bestowing,
Or all the glories of the world
In which you had no part.
I’d rather have the theme of you
To thread my nights and days,
I’d rather have the dream of you
With faint stars glowing,
I’d rather have the want of you,
The rich, elusive taunt of you
Forever and forever and forever unconfessed
Than claim the alien comfort
Of any other’s breast.
O lover! O my lover,
That this should come to me!
I’d rather have the hope for you,
Ah, Love, I’d rather grope for you
Within the great abyss
Than claim another’s kiss—
Alone I’d rather go my way
Throughout eternity.


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