University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Elizabeth Oakes Smith collection, 1842-2007

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

The collection contains original copies of Smith’s first stories “The Western Captive,” “The Christian Sisters,” and “Gems and Reptiles,” published in 1842 and poems published in an 1852 edition of Graham’s Magazine. Also in the collection are two photographic reprints of Smith, one as a young woman and also in her later years. Among the material is a piece of correspondence dated 1866, to a Maine attorney, recommending Smith as a lecturer, either for compensation or for no cost as “she could not fail of satisfying everybody with you.”

Biographical/Historical Note

Elizabeth Oakes Smith was born in North Yarmouth, Maine on August 12, 1806, to Sophia Blanchard and David Prince. Fearing for her future, her mother stopped Smith’s educational pursuits and married her to Seba Smith, a graduate of Bowdoin, twice her age. The two would have six children together, four of whom would live to adulthood. Smith’s connection to the literary world first came through her husband, who owned the first daily paper in Portland, The Portland Courier, in which she was often published.

Publishing several works on her own she wrote under the pseudonym Ernest Heifenstein, but once established as a “feminist” in 1848, she declared the death of this other name. Smith attended the Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 and published Woman and Her Needs in 1851. Her reputation became widely known because of her abolitionist stance, her views on marriage, and her novel, Newsboy (1854) which brought attention to homeless children in New York.

In a move toward independence from her husband, Oakes Smith took legal action to have her children’s surnames changed to Oakesmith. Moving to Long Island in 1860, she and her husband experienced financial hardship. Seba Smith died 6 years later. Smith continued to publish in Beadles Monthly and Home Journal. She died on November 15, 1893 in Hollywood, North Carolina.