Charlotte Champe Stearns

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Charlotte Champe Stearns (1843–1929), was a school teacher, poet, social worker, and the mother of T. S. Eliot.

Early life and education[edit]

Charlotte was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She was born the second daughter and second of nine children of Charlotte and Thomas Stearns. Her father was a merchant who attempted living in different cities, before he settled down as a merchant partner in the trading firm of Stearns & Bailey in Boston, Massachusetts. Charlotte attended private school and graduated from the advance class[citation needed] of the State Normal School of Framingham, Massachusetts in 1862.[1] She was employed as a teacher at a private school in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Her teaching career led her to Pennsylvania, Milwaukee, Antioch College, back to Framingham and to the St. Louis Normal School in St. Louis, Missouri.[1]

Married life[edit]

Stearns married Henry Ware Eliot (1843 – 1919) on October 27, 1868, in Lexington, Massachusetts.[2] They returned to Eliot's home city of Saint Louis, Missouri where they worked and reared their family. They had five daughters and two sons: Ada (Eliot) Sheffield, born in 1869; Margaret Dawes Eliot, born in 1871; Charlotte (Eliot) Smith, born in 1874; Marian Cushing Eliot, born in 1877; Henry Ware Eliot, Jr., born in 1879; Theodora Sterling Eliot, born in 1885 but died in infancy, and Thomas Stearns Eliot, born in 1888.[2] Charlotte's youngest child inherited his mother's literary skills and became the poet known as T. S. Eliot. In the 1870s when her husband was in bankruptcy Charlotte taught school at the nearby Mary Institute[3]

Work and Actions[edit]

Charlotte was a writer of poems. Many of her poems appeared in religious periodicals. A collection of her poems, Easter Songs, was published in 1899. She was interested in the dramatization of events from medieval and Renaissance history that reflected the struggles of men who died for their faith. Charlotte's tone in her poetry was that of a dignified passion.

She also wrote a biography of her father-in-law, William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister and leading citizen of St. Louis.


Charlotte left St. Louis and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts after the death of her husband in 1919. Charlotte died in Cambridge in 1929 at eighty-sixty of a cerebral thrombosis. After her cremation, her ashes were buried next to her husband's plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.


  • "Eliot, Charlotte Champe Stearns." Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (1971): Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 15 May 2012.
  • Eliot, Charlotte (1899). Easter Songs. Boston: J.H. West. 
  • Eliot, Charlotte (1904). William Greenleaf Eliot, minister, educator, philanthropist. Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin. 
  • Eliot, Charlotte (1926). Savonarola, a dramatic poem. London: R. Cobden-Sanderson. 
  • Gordon, Lyndall (2000). T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life (paperback) (1st American ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04728-8. 

Notes and Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Gordon, p. 8
  2. ^ a b Find-a-Grave
  3. ^ Gordon, p. 9