Mary Ashley Townsend

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Mary Ashley Townsend, ca. 1897

Mary Ashley Townsend (1836 – June 7, 1901) was an American poet and writer.


Townsend was born in Lyons, New York in 1836[1] (some sources say 1832)[2] Her maiden name was Van Voorhis. She was educated in her native town and married Gideon Townsend, of New Orleans, Louisiana.

She began to write for publication about 1856 and, under the pen-name of "Xariffa", earned a reputation as the author of "Quillotypes", a series of humorous papers that appeared in the New Orleans "Delta" and were widely copied by the southern and western press. Her other works are The Brother Clerks (1859), Poems (1870), The Captain's Story (1874), and Down the Bayou, and other Poems (1884). Among her short poems are "Creed", which was copied in newspapers in England as well as the United States,[1] "A Woman's Wish", "The Bather", and "The Wind".

She was appointed to deliver the official poem on the opening of the New Orleans exposition in 1884, and that at the unveiling of the statue of General Albert Sidney Johnston in 1887.

She was the first American invited to join the "Liceo Hidalgo", a prestigious Mexican literary club.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Her work gained "high critical acclaim in the 1870s and 1880s".[3] By 1916, fifteen years after her death, an article in A History of American Literature said, "Her humorous sketches in prose are forgotten, but her mildly sentimental poems hold for her a place in the anthologies."[2] She is mentioned in The History of Southern Women's Literature (2002) for her work having freshness and genuineness in dealing with traditional subjects.[4]

Partial list of works[edit]

  • The Brother Clerks (1859)
  • Poems (1870)
  • The Captain's Story (1874)
  • Down the Bayou, and other Poems (1884)


  1. ^ a b c Rutherford, Mildred Lewis, The South in history and literature, The Franklin-Turner Company, Atlanta GA., 1907. Retrieved September 18, 2011
  2. ^ a b Cairns, William B., A history of American literature, Oxford University Press, 1916, page 436. Retrieved September 18, 2011
  3. ^ Carter, Hodding The past as prelude: New Orleans 1718-1968, Firebird Press, 2009, page 182. ISBN 978-1-58980-681-8. Retrieved September 18, 2011
  4. ^ Perry, Carolyn and Mary Louise Weaks, The history of southern women's literature, Louisiana State University Press, 2002, pages 199-200. ISBN 978-0-8071-2753-7. Retrieved September 18, 2011


External links[edit]