Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Born, Helena (1860–1901)
Author:
Ceniza, Sherry
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Helena Born moved with her friend Miriam Daniell from England to the Boston area in 1890. Born in Devonshire, England, Born moved with her parents to Bristol and in time became active in the socialist movement, working especially hard for better pay and working conditions for women. A well-educated woman, she read voraciously, coming to admire Whitman while still living in England.

Born was one of the early members of the Boston Branch of the Walt Whitman Fellowship, where she and Helen Tufts Bailie, her close friend and loyal admirer, actively joined with others to support Whitman's poetry and prose. After Born's death in 1901, Tufts (Bailie) saw to it that Born's writings were collected and published in a book titled Whitman's Ideal Democracy. This book, whose title essay was originally published in Poet-Lore in 1899, contains articles on writers other than Whitman, though the majority of them focus on him.

Born found Whitman's concept of democracy to be at one with her own. Though her communal side responded to Whitman's call for national unity through a strong public structural grounding, Whitman's call for the strong individual—for self-knowledge and pride—touched her own experience deeply. She felt such a message had special appeal to women. Born is one of a long list of women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who felt Whitman to be a valid spokesperson for women's rights.

Bibliography

Born, Helena. Whitman's Ideal Democracy and Other Writings. Ed. Helen Tufts. Boston: Everett, 1902.


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