Open main menu

Woman of the Century/Abby Morton Diaz

ABBY MORTON DIAZ..jpgABBY MORTON DIAZ DIAZ, Mrs. Abby Morton, industrial reformer, born in Plymouth, Mass., in 1821. She is descended from George Morton, one of the Plymouth Pilgrims. Her father, Ichabod Morton, was a prominent anti-slavery worker. Her early reccollections {{SIC}} are associated with anti-slavery meetings, and her first public work was as the secretary of a juvenile anti-slavery society, to whose funds each member aimed to contribute twenty-five cents weekly, a large sum in those days of scanty pence and simple living. To raise half her contribution she went without butter and knit garters to earn the other twelve. Educated in the public schools, she kept her influence at work, using for her homemade copy-books sheets of paper with the figure of a kneeling slave upon them. Among the men to whose utterances Abby Morton listened were Garrison and Horace Mann. She early began to put her thoughts on paper. While aiding in the work of her home, she found time to write prose and verse. She was the only daughter, and her five brothers made plenty of work for her. When the "community" ideas were started, her father seized upon them as promising realization of his hope for the practical recognition of the brotherhood of the race, and joined the celebrated Brook Farm Community, building a house and moving there with his family. A few weeks convinced him of the failure of the scheme, and he returned to Plymouth and resumed his business. Mrs. Diaz' married life was very brief, and she was left with two little sons to care for. When the boys were small, she cut and made their garments, taught a juvenile singing school, private and public schools, and was for one summer housekeeper at a summer resort on an island near Plymouth, where she did all the bread and cake making, because her cook was unsatisfactory. At one time she "put out" work for a large clothing house and in visiting the "lofts" where this was done she received harsh proofs of the poorly paid work of skillful women, who had no other recourse. In 1861 Mrs. Diaz sent a story to the "Atlantic Monthly," under an assumed name, and was delighted with her success when it was accepted and she received a check for forty dollars for it. From that time she took up her life work, to reach and help her fellows through her pen. Her stories for children, originally published in "Young Folks" and other magazines, have a wide fame, and series after series, beginning with "William Henry's Letters to His Grandmother," "Pink and Blue," "The Little Country Girl," "Farmer Hill's Diary," "The Schoolmaster's Story" and "Some Account of the Early Life of a Bachelor," were full of the subtle yet simple humor that imbues all Mrs. Diaz's writings. When Rev. Edward Eggleston became editor of "Hearth and Home," he was advised by William Dean Howells to write to Mrs. Diaz, and he did so, the correspondence resulting in the series of papers upon the household life of women which were feigned to have been found in "The Schoolmaster's Trunk." These and others are included in two volumes, "The Bybury Book" and "Domestic Problems." Her letters and articles on household and domestic difficulties caused her to be looked upon as one speaking with authority, and she was invited to lecture upon those questions. She read a paper in the Woman's Congress held in Philadelphia in 1876. The paper was entitled "The Development of Character in Schools," since published in the "Arena." She helped to organize the present Woman's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston. An important work of that association has been the impetus given to the legal protection of helpless women and girls from employers and advertisers who refuse to pay honestly earned wages, or by seductive printed promises wile from their victims money and hours of work, for which they elude payment by trickery. Mrs. Diaz is a profound believer in the "Science of the Higher Life," otherwise known as "Christian Science," and has tested its efficiency in healing and its power for spiritual good, and has written several pamphlets on the subject. Her latest work has been courses of talks on the questions of the day, including the ethics of nationalism, Christian socialism, progressive morality, life, or what is it to live? character work in homes and schools, human nature, competition, and another pamphlet of hers containing a series of papers on arbitration, first published in the "Independent." Mrs. Diaz now makes her home in Belmont, Mass., with her oldest son. She has been unanimously re-elected president of the educational and industrial association every year since its organization.