An Ella Wheeler Wilcox Timeline

1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s

It has long been my desire to write the definitive biography of Ella. To this end I have gather a lot of biographical material from many sources. In the process of trying to sort all this out, I decided (being a historian and so inclined) to put together a timeline so that I could try to organize the information I did have. This is especially crucial since Ella was...vague about many of the dates in her life and the timing of things. Her autobiographies are filled with general time periods or incidents that occured after or before known dates, but seldom can they be specifically noted to the day (or often even year). Her biographers have continued the confusion by often guessing (and differing) as to the specific year of events. I am hoping that other readers who view this timeline might make me aware of their theories of the timing of these events. Perhaps through such discussion we can determine more closely the events of her life and thus their effect later in her life. I would appreciate knowing the source for any details.

Note: I have not just added her age to 1850 to determine the year that she did things, but rather have added one more year since she was born in November. So when she says she was nine, for instance, I assume she meant 1860 (not 1859) since she turned nine on November 5, 1859 and was nine until November 5, 1860. Since most of that age resides in 1860, anything she said about when she was nine goes under that year.

I have put major events and dates in Bold. I have put the locations of her home each year next to that year, where known.

Rich Edwards
Olympia, WA
December 15, 2000

Marcus and Sarah (Pratt) Wheeler, came from Thetford, Vermont, in June, 1849, with their three children. Ella was not born until over a year later. The Wheelers rented a house on the present County A at Scharine Corner east of Janesville. Then it was the busy Mineral Point-Milwaukee Road. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

Her parents were Marcus H. Wheeler, and Sarah Pratt Wheeler, with three older children they had followed, "Grandsir Pratt" from Vermont in 1849.  [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

My family had left a comfortable, even a luxurious, home for those days, in Vermont to seek fortune in the new West--Wisconsin--before the year of my birth. ["My Autobiography"]

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, was born at Johnstown, Rock County, Wisconsin. Her father was a Vermonter, but settled in Johnstown in the year 1848. [Prominent Men and Women of the Day.]

Her father, who was a descendant from Ethan Allen, was in his younger days a teacher of the violin. In Wisconsin he became a farmer, and it was upon a farm that the first years of Mrs. Wilcox were spent. ["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

Her father traced his ancestry to Ethan Allen, and she herself claimed descent on her mother's side from Pocahontas.[The New York Times]

Her parents removed from Vermont about 1850, her father being a music teacher.  [The National Cyclopedia of American Biography]

With a Great Grandfather Pratt seven years in the Revolutionary War, and his wife Elizabeth Currier of French blood; a Grandmother named Conner; a Mother, who, like most of her aunts and cousins, was addicted to the habit of composing verses, Ella had the inherited tendency; a regular family study of Shakespeare, Byron, Burns and modern poets all year round, 1849-50 doubtless added a prenatal influence, which formed the character of her ambition.

Our mother inherited a poetic strain, a talent for versification. I recall several rhyming parodies, sarcastic verses and sentimental compositions or additions to songs of those days. One sang was of a lovelorn girl, who constantly asked "Are we almost there." She was returning home after a fruitless search for health. As the song was written, it ended thus: "The quick pulse stopped! She was almost there!" It lacked a few lines when sung to a certain tune and mother added these: "And they laid her where the flowers would spring, which oft she had sought in their early bloom; where wild birds carol and sweetly sing, a requiem o'er her lowly tomb." . . . These lines were quite as metrical, quiet as poetical as the song itself. [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

Braley House, Johnstown, Rock County, Wisconsin

The literary tendencies of my mother had never been gratified. The poetical gift was no doubt greatly the result of her having accidental access to a library of the poets, for the first time in her life, the year previous to my advent, and the happiest and most hopeful year of her life. ["My Autobiography"]

Arthur Braley, their landlord and a Shakespearean scholar, shared his library with them. Before Ella's birth, Mrs. Wheeler announced that her unborn child would be a daughter, an author, and would travel and live as she, her mother, had always wanted. The Wheeler family was not suited to pioneer life. The winter of 1850, Marcus taught dancing and "manners" at an Inn a half mile west on the Milwaukee Road. he played the violin for the dances. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

November 5, 1850: Born Ella Wheeler, Braley House, Johnstown, Rock County, Wisconsin

1851 Braley House, Johnstown, Rock County, Wisconsin
1852 Braley House, Johnstown, Rock County, Wisconsin (January-March);  Westport, Dane County, Wisconsin (April-December)

Soon after she was born the family moved to a farm in the town of Westport, Wis., a few miles from Madison, in the famous "four-lakes district." ["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

In April, 1852, the Wheeler family moved to a farm at Westport, Dane County, a short distance north of Madison. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

In the spring of 1852 the Wheeler family settled in Dane County, Wisconsin [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

My father had been a music-teacher all his life, and when he attempted to become a business man and speculator, he made a failure of it. By the time I was a year or two old, he had lost the little competence he brought West with him, and the family (two parents and four children, including myself) was obliged to begin life anew, at the foot of the ladder, upon a Western prarie, distant twelve miles from the nearest town. This town was Madison, Wisconsin's capital. ["My Autobiography"]

My parents were intellectual; my mother was a great reader of whatever came in her way, and was possessed of a wonderful memory. The elder children were excellent scholars, and a grammatical error was treated as a cardinal sin in the household. But no one knew anything about the methods of getting into print, and we had no literary associates. We were, in truth, while poor in worldly goods and knowledge and customs, the intellectual aristocrats of the locality. ["My Autobiography"]

1853 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

In 1853 were at home on Section 2, town of Westport, where Ella grew up, in the home where she made her reputation as a writer of appealing poetry, until her marriage in 1884, when she went to Connecticut; from which state her Grandfather Wheeler had migrated to Vermont years before.  [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

Recently (1920s) the old Wheeler home was accidently burned.   [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

1854 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
1855 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
1856 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
1857 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Her early education was somewhat limited. She attended the public school in the village of Windsor. ["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

Her education was acquired in a district school, now named Ella Wheeler Wilcox School [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

1858 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

In an old red chest upstairs were religiously preserved copies of "The Arabian Nights," "Gulliver's Travels," "John Gilpin's Ride" and a few of Shakespeare's plays. The "New York Ledger" and the "New York Mercury" were sent to us by relatives for several years, and the first literary feasts I indulged in were the weekly serial stories of Mrs. Southworth and May Agnes Fleming. They were like tobasco sauce to the appetite--exciting but not healthful. They gave me false ideas of life and added to my discontent with my lonely environment. There was nothing in my situation to cultivate poetical talent, and I no doubt owe my early development as a poet to that fact--paradoxical as the statement may seem. ["My Autobiography"]

From an early age was an avid reader of popular literature, especially the novels of E.D.E.N. Southworth, Mary Jane Holmes, and Ouida.[Encyclopædia Britannica]

1859 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

I do not remember when I did not expect to be a writer, and I was a neighborhood celebrity at the age of eight.["My Autobiography"]
1860 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

At the age of nine I completed a novel of eleven chapters headed with original rhymes. (I have it still, bound in paper which I took from a loose panel on the kitchen wall.) ["My Autobiography"]

She was but a little more than eight years of age when she wrote, or, rather, printed, a most ingenious novel, the original manuscript of which she still has in her possession. The early tendency of the poet to write of love and passion is shown by it, for innumerable love-affairs, always culminating in weddings, are scattered throughout the little volume.  Ther hero becomes a Justice of the Peace, which the youthful country author looked upon as the highest earthly position of honor. The title page reads: "Minnie Tighthand and Mrs. Dunley, an Eloquent Novel Written by Miss Ella Wheeler."

There is a preface reading as follows:
"The following novel is a true story. I suppose the reader will doubt it, but it is true. It is a scene that I witnessed when living in England, and after I came to America I published it. The reader may believe it now."  At that time the girl had never been twenty-five miles from home, and Mrs. Wilcox wonders now how she ever conceived such a deception.

Nearly every chapter of the novel is begun with an original verse. The following is a sample:
          "A head covered with pretty curls,
               Face white as the snow.
          Her teeth look like handsome pearls,
               She's tall and merry to!"
["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

1861 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

I hailed composition-day with an eagerness equaled only by my terror of an examination in mathematics. It is human to dislike being humiliated in our fellow-being's eyes. One of the most depressing days in my life was when I stood twenty in a scale of one hundred in mathematics. ["My Autobiography"]

Riding horseback, dancing, visiting girl friends, dreaming great dreams and being kind, was better than trying to master mathematics, of which she had a "holy horror."  [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

Though her parents could support their children only meagerly during the Civil War years, they gave them a rich inheritance of intangibles. Reading was an important part of their daily life, and correct grammar was demanded of all. The parents' tolerant attitudes were later reflected in Ella's work, and she took pride in her heritage of health and vitality.  [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

1862 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

It was soon after this period that I saw my first editor. He came from madison with a railroad official to ask for subscriptions for some proposed new line of railroad. He came in a "covered carriage"--my idea of elegance and wealth, as I rarely saw anything better than lumberwagons or runabouts. I came from school, a long mile walk, on a hot summer afternoon, tired and curious to know who was within. As I entered the room, some member of the family presented me, and the editor took me on his knee.
"You look as delicate as a city girl," he said. "You ought to be more robust, living in this fine country air." Pleasant editors have said many things of me since then, but nothing which ever gave me such a sense of being a superior being as that. To look like a city girl!--what joy! Yet I had never seen a city girl then, I am sure. ["My Autobiography"]
1863 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Having a decided tendency toward story-writing and rhyming she was always called upon to furnish the fiction and verse for the school magazine.["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]
1864 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

During my thirteenth year the New York Mercury ceased to come to us. I missed its weekly visits with an intensity scarcely to be understood by one who has not known the same lonely surroundings and possessed the same temperament. There was not money enough floating about in those times to permit a subscription to the "Mercury," and if I were to possess it I knew I must either obtain a long list of subscribers, which would be a difficult and laborious undertaking, or earn it by my pen.

I resolved to try. But fearing failure, I did not want the family to know of my venture. I wrote two essays--just what the subjects were I have forgotten, and the clippings were lost years since, I regret to say. How to post my letter was the next question. I often acted as mail-carrier to the post-office, five miles distant, riding across fields and over fences on my graceful single-footer, Kitty, in company with a schoolmate, Alice Ellis, who possessed a Shetland pony. We rode without saddles, blanketing and bridling our own steeds--and it is fortunate I did not live in Buffalo Bill's vicinity or my career might have terminated in the Wild West Show.

While I could post a letter unknown to my family, the stamp had first to be obtained. Finally I decided on a stratagem. I was corresponding with a young girl, several years my senior, who was in the freshman class at Madison University. I confided in her, inclosed the "Mercury" letter, and assured her she would be reimbursed for the stamp when we next met. I would save my pennies for that purpose.  ["My Autobiography"]

1865 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Jean posted my letter and watched the news-stand for results. Two months later, long after I had relinquished all hope, she wrote me that my essays had appeared. Whereupon I wrote a stern reproof to the editor for not sending me the paper, "at least as pay for my work," if he could afford no other remuneration. Shortly afterward, a large package of back numbers of the "New York Mercury" came addressed to me through the country post-office.  ["My Autobiography"]

at the age of fourteen, one of her articles was published in the New York "Mercury." The delighted girl sent for a large number of the issue containing it, and the arrival of the bundle was the first intimation her parents had that their child had "gone into print." ["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

Even at that immature period I had a wooer--a young man past voting age, possessed of a mustache, a tenor voice and no visible means of support. He played the violin and sang "That night or never my bride thou shalt be" in a truly fascinating manner. He had been given to understand by the family that his room was preferable to his company, however, and had ceased to call. When the enormous roll of newspapers direct from the editor's office came to me, a stern senior member of the household at once concluded that the love-lorn swain had subscribed, to win new favor in my eyes. This accusation was made before I was questioned on the subject. Perhaps the most triumphant and dramatic hour of my life was when I stepped forth in short skirts and long ringlets, and announced to the family that not my would-be lover, but my literary work, had procured the coveted "Mercury" for our united enjoyment. The world seemed to grow larger and life more wonderful from that hour. I was then fourteen. ["My Autobiography"]

In the years between 1865 and 1875, a strong prohibition wave was sweeping over Wisconsin. Good Tempar Lodges became numerous. T. D. Kanouse was our strong man with S. D. Hastings, H. W. Giles, Thurlow Brown and Emma Brown all in the work. A lodge met in the Plackett school house, five miles west of us, and the Wheelers were among the charter members. [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

1866 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

I wrote to Jean and asked her to send me a list of all the weeklies and monthlies she could find in the book-stands, and to each and every one I sent essays, stories and poems, with enthusiasm and persistency. Every penny was saved for postage, and the family entered into my ambitions with encouraging faith in my success.

I soon filled the house with all the periodicals we had time to read, and in addition the editors sent me books and pictures and bric-a-brac and tableware--articles from their prize-lists, which were more precious than gems would have been to me. They served to relieve the bare and commonplace aspect of the home, and the happiness I felt in earning these things with my pen is beyond words to describe. It is a curious incident that the first bit of silverware which came into the home was manufactured by the house with which the man whose name I am fortunate in bearing to-day was afterward associated.

The very first verses I sent for publication were unmercifully "guyed" by my beloved "Mercury." The editor urged me to keep to prose and to avoid any further attempts at rhyme. He said that, while this criticism would wound me temporarily, it would eventually confer a favor on me and the world at large.

I recall only two stanzas of that unfortunate poem. It related the woes of a love-lorn maiden, and I described her as

"She flew to her room, locked and bolted the door,
And in anguish and grief threw, herself on the floor."

This was precisely what I did when I read the editor's cruel comment. Yet, after the first despair wore off, I set to work with new fervor and determination and sent poems and essays and stories to the "Saturday Evening Post," "Demorest's," "Peterson's" and "Arthur's" magazines, "Harper's," "Leslie's" and a score more of periodicals. My first poem published appeared in the "Waverley Magazine."  ["My Autobiography"]

The Frank Leslie Publishing House was the first buyer, giving her $6 for the poem "Life" when she was 15 years old. [The New York Times]

My first check came from Frank Leslie's publishing house. I wrote asking for one of his periodicals to be sent to me in return for three little poems I had composed in one day. In reply came a check for ten dollars, saying I must select which one of some thirteen publications they issued at that time.

This bit of crisp paper opened a perfect floodgate of aspiration, inspiration and ambition for me. I had not thought of earning money so soon. I had expected to obtain only books, magazines and articles of use and beauty from the editor's prize-lists; and I had not supposed verses to be salable. I wrote them because they came to me, but I expected to be a novelist like Mrs. Southworth and May Agens Fleming in time--that was the goal of my dreams. The check from Leslie was a revelation. I walked, talked, thought and dreamed in verse after that. A day which passed without a poem from my pen I considered lost and misused. Two each day was my idea of industry, and I once achieved eight. They sold--the majority--for three dollars or five dollars each. Sometimes I got ten dollars for a poem--that was always an event. Short love-stories, over which I labored painfully, as storywritting was an acquired habit, also added to my income, bringing me ten or fifteen dollars, and once in a while larger sums, from "Peterson's," "Demorest's," "Harper's Bazar" and the "Chimney Corner."

A new line of railroad came through the county, and we had three mails a week and a post-office only three miles away. My good single-pacer was sold, but my father had taken an old horse, Burney, in trade, and my brothers had purchased a light top-buggy. I used to write my daily stint of several poems, and perhaps a story, and with a half-dozen manuscripts addressed to as many editors, I would harness old Burney and drive to the post-office with my brain wares, and great was the day when I brought home a check. Harper paid me fifteen dollars for one poem, Leslie sent me a check of forty dollars for ten poems and a short story, the "Saturday Evening Post" sent me a set of Dickens, all within a period of six months after my first money success. ["My Autobiography"]

About the time I appreared in print, I left the country school. My record there had been wretched in mathematics, while excellent in grammar, spelling and reading. I lost interest in study, and my mind would not focus itself upon school-books. I lived in a world of imagination and pictured for myself a wonderful future. In this I was encouraged at home by the ambitions of my mother, who despised her life and felt herself and her family superior to all her associates, and was forever assuring me (and them as well!) that my future would be wholly apart from my early companions.

Fortunately for me and for all concerned, I was a healthy and normal young animal, and fond of my comrades and enjoying all their sports, into which I entered with zest, despite my mental aspirations and literary tendancies. I was passionately fond of dancing, and at fifteen attended the merrymakings of the grown-up girls and young men of the neighborhood, looking with disdain upon a boy of my own age.["My Autobiography"]

Several of her earliest articles appeared in the New York "Mercury," and she soon won the recognition of editors and
publishers, both local and metropolitan, and contributed to the periodical press. She wrote largely for syndicates, and her verse contributed particularly to her fame and popularity. [The National Cyclopedia of American Biography]

1867 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin : Woman's College of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

When she was sixteen years old "The Chimney Corner" printed one of her productions and paid her for it. It was the first money she had ever earned. Soon after she became a paid contributor to "Harper's Bazar," "Harper's Weekly," "The Saturday Evening Post," of Philadelphia, Leslie's periodicals and many other publications. ["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

In 1867 her parents sent her to Madison where she was a junior in the Female College, a part of the University of Wisconsin. Ella wanted to spend all of ther time writing and begged to come home. She also was painfully aware of the difference between her homemade clothes and the dresses of city girls. After one year she was allowed to end her formal education and return home.  [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

Except for a year at the University of Wisconsin (1867-68), she devoted herself thereafter to writing. [Encyclopædia Britannica]

An elder brother and sister felt concerned at my lack of education and my propensity for pleasure, and the family made great sacrifices and managed to send me off to Madison University at about this time. ["My Autobiography"]

1868 Woman's College of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin : Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Attended the Woman's College of the University of Wisconsin for one year (1868). [The National Cyclopedia of American Biography]

I was not at all happy there: first, because I knew the strain it put upon the home purse; second, because I felt the gulf between myself and the town girls, whose gowns and privileges revealed to me, for the first time, the different classes in American social life; and third, because I wanted to write and did not want to study. I had lost all taste for school-books.

On composition-day I undertook to distinguish myself by writing a "narrative," as the class was requested, but my ardent love-story only called forth a kind of rebuke from gentle Miss Ware, and I was told to avoid reading the "New York Ledger."

After one term, I begged my mother to allow me to remain at home and write and she wisely consented. .["My Autobiography"]

One short term at Wisconsin University, which was as she saw it a "waste of time."   [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

I frequently sent out ten manuscripts in one post, to have nine come back with drooping heads. But I set them forth on another voyage by the next mail. I kept a series of crude books with a list of the periodicals and the travels of each poem or story inscribed therein. Many a manuscript took nine or ten journeys to New York and Boston before it found acceptance. One story declined by nine editors (and ridiculed by the ninth on the margin) brought seventy-five dollars from the tenth-- the largest price I had ever received.

My world grew larger with each sunrise, it seemed to me. People from Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago began to write me and seek me out. I was invited to visit city homes, and while this was a delight bordering on ecstasy and a relief from the depressing atmosphere of home anxieties, it yet brought with it the consciousness of the world's demands, which, added to those of duty and necessity, made a larger income imperative. ["My Autobiography"]

1869 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Her first check paid for a dress to wear to a wedding, in March 1869.  [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]
1870 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

A Milwaukee editor offered me forty-five dollars a month to edit the literary department of a trade magazine. I accepted, but the office hours and order of work were wholly distasteful to me. I was not sorry when the venture failed at the expiration of three months. It was the only experience of my life in attempting an office position. ["My Autobiography"]
1871 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
1872 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Published her first book: Drops of Water: Poems. New York: The National Temperance Society and publication house, 1872.

Before her teens were passed she has published "Drops of Water" dealing with total abstinence, which brought in $50. [The New York Times]

Much of the very earliest work of my pen was devoted to poems on total abstinence--a subject on which the family was very enthusiastic. These verses, some fifty in number, were issued in book form, during my teens [she was really 21 - RAE], under the title of "Drops of Water." I received fifty dollars for the copyright, and am sure Mr. Rockefeller feels no richer to-day with his millions than I did with my book and check.  ["My Autobiography"]

Her volume of temperance poems, "Drops of Water," has many admirers.  [Prominent Men and Women of the Day.]

1873 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

A year or two later I published, by subscription, my first miscellaneous collection, "Shells," now out of print.  ["My Autobiography"]

Shells. Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.

Her miscellaneous collection of verse entitled "Shells" (1883 [error, should be 1873 - RAE]) was not successful [American Women.]

1874 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Drops of water : a selection of temperance poems & recitations. [Rev. ed.] London : John Kempster, 1874.
1875 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

"Maurine" (Chicago, 1875) [American Women.]
"Maurine" (Milwaukee, 1875) [Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography]

Then I grew ambitious to write a story in verse, and devoted the best part of a summer to composing "Maurine." Even the name was my own creation--suggested to me by a short poem of Nora Perry's entitled "Norine." ["My Autobiography"]

1876 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Maurine. Milwaukee: Cramer, Aikens & Cramer, 1876.

When my book was completed, I made a visit to Chicago and called upon Jansen & McClurg, expecting that staid firm eagerly to seize upon my proffered manuscript, which I thought was to bring me world-wide fame and fortune. Instead, it was declined with thanks, and I was informed that they had never heard of me. After repeated efforts and failures, I induced a Wisconsin firm to get the book out. It barely paid expenses. But two years later I was made happy by having Jansen & McClurg write and request the privilege of republishing the volume, with additional short poems.  ["My Autobiography"]

1877 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
There was continual worry at home. No one was resigned or philosophical. My mother hated her hard-working lot, for which she was totally unfitted, and constantly rebelled against it, like a caged animal beating against iron bars; while she did her distasteful tasks with a Spartan-like adherence to duty, doubting the dominance of an all-wise Ruler who could condemn her to such a lot.

Like thousands of others in the world, she had not learned that through love and faith only do conditions change for the better. The home was prevaded by an atmosphere of discontent and fatigue.

From reincarnated sources and through prenatal causes, I was born with unquenchable hope and unfaltering faith in God and guardian spirits. I often wept myself to sleep after a day of disappointments and worries but woke in the morning singing aloud with the joy of life.

I always expected wonderful things to happen to me.

In some of the hardest days, when everything went wrong with everybody at home, and all my manuscripts came back for six weeks at a time without one acceptance, I recall looking out of my little north window upon the lonely road bordered with lonelier Lombardy poplars, and thinking, "Before night something beautiful will happen to change everything." There was so much I wanted! I wanted to bestow comfort, ease and pleasure on everybody at home. I wanted lovely gowns--ah, how I wanted them!--and travel and accomplishments. I wanted summers by the sea--the sea which I had read of, but had never seen--and on moonlight nights these longings grew so aggressive I often pinned the curtain down and shut out the rays that seemed to intensify my loneliness, and I would creep into my little couch under the sloping caves, musing, "Another beautiful night of youth wasted and lost." And I would waken happy in spite of myself and put all my previous melancholy into verses--and dollars.

Once I read a sentence which became a life-motto for me. "If you haven't what you like, try to like what you have." I wish I knew who wrote it--it was such a help to me just as I was nearing the borders of the family pessimism and chronic discontent. I tried from that hour to find something I liked and enjoyed in each day--something I could be thankful for; and I found much, though troubles increased and conditions did not improve about me.

The elder children married [last one in 1877 - RAE] and had cares of their own. I was so sorry for them--missing the beautiful things I knew life held.

Slowly, so slowly, it seemed to me, my work and my income increased. I longed for suddent success, for sudden wealth. It was so hard to wait--there was so much to be done. There was a gentle hill south of the house; often one summer evenings, after writing all day, I climbed this ascent at sunset and looked eastward, wondering what lay for me beyond the horizon. I always had the idea that my future would be associated with the far West, yet it was to the East I invariably looked. My knowledge of the East was bounded by Milwaukee and Chicago--the goal of happy visits two or three times a year.

Sometimes I walked through the pasture and young woods, a half-mile, to call on Emma, the one friend who knew and
sympathized with all the family troubles. And Emma would walk back with me, and we would wonder how many years longer these walks and talks would continue for us. I would tell her of my successes in my work, and she and her gentle mother rejoiced in them as if they were their own personal triumphs. Such restful walks and talks they always were. Dear Emma! ["My Autobiography"]

1878 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Ella became an accepted part of the literary and social life of Madison and Milwaukee. Governor Fairchild gave her his personal congratulations. He had lost one arm in the Civil War, but embraced her, saying, "I wish I had two arms to put around you, little girl. I am so proud of you." Her personal popularity was indicated by financial backing from friends and the support of Milwaukee newspaper literary critics.[The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]
1879 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
1880 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Her financial returns were not of importance until after 1880, though she was known and loved by thousands of readers. She wrote for the same reason that a bird sings. It was what she was made for. [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]
1881 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin
1882 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Maurine and other poems. Chicago : Jansen, McClurg, & Company, 1882. 

When publishing "Maurine," I had purposely omitted more than twoscore poems of a very romantic nature, in order to save the volume from too much sentiment. Letters began to come to me requesting copies of these verses--ardent love-songs which had appeared in various periodicals. This suggested to me the idea of issuing a book of love-poems to be called "Poems of Passion." To think was to do--for I possessed more activity than caution in those days.

As just related, every poem in the book had been published in various periodicals and had brought forth no criticism. My amazement can hardly be imagined, therefore, when Jansen & McClurg returned the manuscript of my volume, intimating that it was immoral. I told the contents of their letter to friends in Milwaukee, and it reached the ears of a sensational morning newspaper. The next day a column article appeared with large headlines:--

                                    "TOO LOUD FOR CHICAGO.
                            "THE SCARLET CITY BY THE LAKE SHOCKED
                                BY A BADGER GIRL, WHOSE VERSES
                                OUT-SWINBURNE SWINBURNE AND
                                    OUT-WHITMAN WHITMAN."

Every newspaper in the land caught up the story, and I found myself an object of unpleasant notoriety in a brief space of time. I had always been a local celebrity, but this was quite another experience. Some friends who had admired and praised, now criticized--though they did not know why. I was advised to burn my offensive manuscript and assured that in  time I might live down the shame I had brought on myself. Yet these same friends had seen these verses in periodicals and praised them. ["My Autobiography"]

1883 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin

Poems of Passion. by Ella Wheeler. Chicago: Belford, Clarke & Co, 1883.

All this but stimulated me to the only vindication I desired--the publication of my book. A Chicago publisher saw his opportunity and offered to bring out the book, and it was an immediate success. It has been issued in London also, where it met with immediate favor. ["My Autobiography"]

In 1883 as Poems of Passion, a titillating title that was as racy as any of the contents. The sale of 60,000 copies in two years firmly established Wheeler's reputation. [Encyclopædia Britannica]

My engagement, though not announced, occurred the week my book was issued. ["My Autobiography"]

Although they had met only three times before the wedding, following a courtship by letter, their union was a
remarkably happy one. [The New York Times]

Ella had many suitors. The accepted suitor came unexpectedly, Robert Wilcox, a silver salesman of Meriden, Connecticut. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

The first proceeds of its sale enabled me to rebuild and improve the old home, which was fast going to ruin. ["My Autobiography"]

The book by which Mrs. Wilcox is best known is "Poems of Passion." When this was first published she was given a reception a the academy of music in Milwaukie, and five hundred dollars was presented to her by her admirers.

Life, which had been a slowly widening stream for me, at this period seemed to unite with the ocean of success and happiness. "I had ceased to expect any sudden success in literature when I published 'Poems of Passion.'" The intense excitement the book caused, the hue and cry raised against its alleged immorality, and the consequently remarkable sales, were all a stunning surprise to me. I had written of human nature as I had found it; I had no idea even that I was saying anything unusual. The abuse my book received was very bitter for me to bear, because I felt it to be unjust. One critic declared that the book would damn me socially and intellectually. I am still a welcome guest in circles where he could not even obtain a position as valet unless I gave him a recommendation; and my book has brought me warm words of praise from the most celebrated people in the land. And the proceeds from its first sales enabled me to build over and enlarge the old home, rendering my aged parents comfortable for life. As I read over my works, and painfully realize their defects, I am moved to wonder why I have been accorded such unusual success when many writers who far excel me as poets have failed to win recognition or remuneration." [Prominent Men and Women of the Day.]

1884 Wheeler Home, Westport, Wisconsin : Stony Creek, Conneticut : Meriden, Conneticut

Ella Wheeler became Mrs. Robert Wilcox on May 1st, 1884, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [The Story of a Literary Career]

Ella Wheeler and Robert M. Wilcox were married in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 2, 1884.[The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

...became the wife of Robert M. Wilcox, of Meriden, Conn [American Women.]

Her marriage was a love match, 1884. [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

"Robert and Ella spent the summer after their marriage at Stony Creek, not far, though they did not know it, from the Connecticut Eden they were to discover a few years later." [Period Piece.]

One year later, in 1884, I was married, and came East to live. Burdens long borne alone were lifted by strong, willing hands, and dreams long dreamed became realities. But work, which had been a necessity, had grown to be a habit and still forms a large element of life's pleasures for me. ["My Autobiography"]

The first three years of their marriage the Wilcoxes lived in Meriden. Robert sold silver objects d'art.[The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

Ella Wheeler Wilcox discreetly closes the door of her life upon the public, at the marriage altar. but the public of "Ella Wheeler," becomes an interested world for Ella Wheeler Wilcox, so distinctly and persistently her audience enlarges with the years and so universal becomes her reputation. [The Story of a Literary Career]

1885 Meriden, Conneticut

It is more than two years since the outline of this simple story first suggested itself to me, and since the first
chapters were written. 
   Many times since then, conscious that I possessed no talent as a novelist, I have resolved to abandon the work.  Yet anunaccountable and mysterious impulse (which no doubt my severe critics will declare as unfortunate, as unaccountable) compelled me to complete it. 
   I have attempted no fine descriptions, no rare word-paintings, no flights of eloquence.  These things lie not within my
province.  As simply and briefly as possible, I have endeavored to relate such events as occur almost daily in our midst. 
    In my selection of a title, I could find no suitable English term which would express the meaning I wished to convey in unison with the leading idea in the book.  Therefore, I was obliged, not without reluctance, to use a French term. 
   To avoid many personal inquiries, I would say, in the beginning, that while I have known nearly all the experiences
herein related to occur, in actual life, I do not, at the present time, know of any person or persons who answer to the
characters I have created. 
                                                                                  Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Meriden, Ct., December 1885. [Preface to Mal moulée : a novel.]
1886 Meriden, Conneticut

Ella's first novel: Mal moulée : a novel. New York : London: G.W. Carleton & Co. ; S. Low, Son & Co., 1886. 
Perdita : and other stories. New York : J.S. Ogilvie and Co., 1886.  
1887 Meriden, Conneticut : New York City, New York

A son (an only child) was born to Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox on May 27, 1887, and lived but a few hours. [The Story of a Literary Career]

At the present time she is in receipt of a good income, and her residence at Meriden, Connecticut, is one of the prettiest and best, not to say the most luxurious homes in that place. [Prominent Men and Women of the Day.] [1888] 

She lost her only child, a boy, a few hours after his birth. [Badger History : Wisconsin Writers]

The third year their son Robert, Jr. was born but lived only a few hours. .[The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

"Robert and Ella spent the summer after their baby died on Shelter Island [NY] and the following autumn they moved to New York [City], where they were to spend their winters over a period of nineteen years." [Period Piece]

Since 1887 they have resided in New York City. [American Women.] [Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography]

Since 1887, she has resided in New York city, where she is engaged in literary work. [The National Cyclopedia of American Biography]

During the early years of her married life, Mrs. Wilcox made a happy home in New York for a niece of her own, a nephew and niece of her husband and for one or two young protegees in whom she became interested. All are now successful young men and women in various vocations of life, and all devotedly attached to Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox.

Mrs. Wilcox's Sunday afternoon receptions have been a feature of the artistic and literary life in the Metropolis.  [The Story of a Literary Career]

Ella looks younger than she really is. Her figure is slight and girlish, and her head is crowned with red-brown hair.  [Prominent Men and Women of the Day.]

1888 St. Albans, New York City, New York (Winter) :

Poems of pleasure. New York ; Chicago and ; San Francisco : Belford, Clarke & Co., c1888.
The adventures of Miss Volney. New York: J.S. Ogilvie, [c1888]
1889 St. Albans, New York (Winter)
1890 St. Albans, New York (Winter)
New York was their business home, but in the summer of 1890 the found the retreat they were looking for near New Haven, Connecticut. They first built a large studio called The Bungalow and then a pretentious Victorian home and four guest houses.
1891 St. Albans, New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

Since 1891, when the "Bungalow" was built by Mr. Wilcox, their happiest season of the year has been passed in that artistic spot, a veritable paradise both within and without.  [The Story of a Literary Career]

How Salvator won and other recitations. New York : Edgar S. Werner, 1891.
A Double life. New York, J.S.Ogilvie [1891]

1892 St. Albans, New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

The beautiful land of Nod. illustrated by Louise M. Mears Chicago: Morrill, Higgins & Co., c1892
An erring woman's love. Illustrated by Louise Mears and W.P. Hooper Chicago: W.B. Conkey, c1892.
1893 St. Albans, New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

Men, women and emotions. Chicago : W. B. Conkey, 1893.
1894 St. Albans, New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

The St. Albans, in the same thoroughfare, was for six years the city home of Mrs. Wilcox, who here wrote "Poems of Pleasure," "How Salvator Won," "Men, Women, and Emotions," and poems and sketches for other volumes. [Literary haunts & homes; American authors]
1895 New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

How Salvator won, and other recitations. Chicago: W.B. Conkey, c1895
1896 New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

Custer, and other poems. Chicago [Ill.] : W.B. Conkey Co., 1896.
An ambitious man. Chicago, E.A. Weeks & co., [c1896]
1897   New York (Winter) : Short Beach, Connecticut (Summer)

Three women. Chicago New York, W.B. Conkey company 1897.

The poet of passion has many fads, chief among them being her gowns, which she designs herself. She has an elaborate and costly collection of girdles, and is always on the lookout for unique and handsome ones to add to it. Her fad in animals is fine Persian cats, which she trains to perform. ["The Poet of Passion" in Authors' Readings.]

The palatial edifice No. 7 West Forty-third street has been since 1891, the abode of the Century Club, of which Bryant, who died its honored president, was chief founder and leading spirit. A sumptuous family hotel in the next street has been for the past two years the winter home of the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who has here written most of her latest, longest, and brightest poem, "Three Women," which she regards as the most important work of her life. [Literary haunts & homes; American authors (first published 1898, rae)]


1898 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

"Columbia." (Poem) Cosmopolitan Magazine 26 (1898): 212.
"Columbia's Motto." (Poem) Cosmopolitan Magazine 26 (1898): 522.
"The Harp's Song." (Poem) National Magazine (Boston) 9 (1898): 305.
"Plea to Peace." (Poem) Cosmopolitan Magazine 26 (1898): 355.
"When the Regiment Came Back." (Poem) Harper's Weekly 42 (Oct. 29, 1898): 1058.

Et dobbeltliv : roman. Minneapolis : C. Rasmussen, 1898. Translation of: A double life. in Norwegian.

1899 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

"Recrimination." (Poem) Century Magazine 57 New Series 35 (April 1899): 914.

1900 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

The adventures of Miss Volney. New York: Street & Smith, 1900.

1901 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901. City woman of empty boarding-house surroundings. BOOK NEWS Sept. '04. [Novels in English by women, 1891-1920 : a preliminary checklist.]

1902 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

Kingdom of love and How Salvator won. Chicago, W.B. Conkey company [1902].

The Heart of the new thought. Chicago, Ill., The Psychic research company, 1902.
The Heart of the new thought. Chicago, Ill., The Library Shelf, 1902.

1903 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

1904 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

As Ella had a strong interest in mysticism, she, along with Fra Elbert Hubbard, H. Spencer Lewis, and J.K.Funk, president of Funk and Wagnalls Publishing Co., became officers of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. As they were not chartered or authorized to use the name Rosicrucian, they operated publically as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

Around the year with Ella Wheeler Wilcox. compiled by Ella Giles Ruddy Chicago, W.B. Conkey Co., [1904]
The heart of the new thought. Chicago, Ill. : The New Thought Pub. Co., 1904.

Mr. Wilcox was engaged in the Manufacture of sterling silver works of art, and his business house, from which he retired June, 1904, still retains his name "The Wilcox and Wagoner Co.," at 41 Union Square, New York.

For six months of each year, from November to May, Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox have resided in the Metropolis and from May to
November in their summer home, "The Bungalow," Short Beach, Conn., a few miles east of Yale College. [The Story of a Literary Career]

1905 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut, Summer

officer of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. They operated publically as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

The heart of the new thought. Chicago, Ill.: New Thought Pub. Co., 1905.

1906 New York, Winter; The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The Kingdom of love, and other poems. London, Gay & Bird, 1907.  "Published November 1906; reprinted February 1907."

officer of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. They operated publically as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

When Robert retired in 1906 this seacoast haven became their permanent home. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

In 1906 a new life began for the Wilcoxes. Ella wrote syndicated a advice column for the Hearst Newspapers. The editor asked her to go to London to write a poem about Queen Victoria who was dying. Robert accompanied her. She wrote "The Queen's Last Ride," and from then on England remained close to her heart. Many of her books were reprinted in England by Gay and Hancock, Publishers. Ella was subsequently presented at court. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

1907 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The love sonnets of Abelard and Heloise. designed and illustrated by Maximilian Fischer. Hammond, Ind: W.B.Conkey, 1907.

officer of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. They operated publically as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

1908 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

officer of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. They operated publically as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

An ambitious man. London: Gay & Hancock, 1908.

1909 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

officer of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. They operated publically as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

1910 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The Diary of a Faithless Husband. London: Gay and Hancock, 1910. presents side of divorced husband. [Novels in English by women, 1891-1920 : a preliminary checklist.]

The Heart of the new thought. Chicago, Ill., The Library Shelf, 1910.

1911 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

Are you alive. GAy & Hancock, 1911.

1912 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The Englishman and other poems. London : Gay and Hancock, 1912.
Gems from Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Chicago: W. B. Conkey [c1912] I. Faith, II. Hope, III. Love, IV. Cheer
The heart of the new thought. Chicago, Ill. : A.C. McClurg, 1912.

1913 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

Ella and Robert spent most of their time traveling the world. They returned to their home to stay in 1913 and
enjoyed life together. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

1914 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The art of being alive; success through thought. New York, London: Harper & brothers, 1914.
Cameos. Chicago: W.B.Conkey Co., 1914

Lest we forget. East Aurora,N.Y. : Printed at the Roycroft shop, 1914.

Fra Elbert Hubbard, of the famous Roycroft printers of fine books, printed Ella's famous essay "Lest We Forget", the story of Thomas Paine. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

1915 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

Much thanks to the efforts of H. Spencer Lewis proper contacts and authorizations to commence the Rosicrucian movement in America were obtained. In 1915 a Rosicrucian Charter was granted with H. Spencer Lewis as Imperator. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was appointed as a member of the first Supreme Council of the American Rosicrucian Movement. Thus, she played an active role in establishing the Rosicrucian movement. She served as a Supreme Council officer until her death in 1919. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

1916 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

In May of 1916, Robert contracted pneumonia and died suddenly. They had been a very devoted couple and
now Ella's life was turned upside down. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

The death of Mr. Wilcox overwhelmed her, until satisfied that she had received messages from him. Then she resumed literary work, and other activities; including war work in France up to Armistice Day. [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]

Officer of the Supreme Council of the American Rosicrucian Movement. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

The heart of the new thought. Chicago : A.C. McClurg, 1916.

They had studied spiritualism together and now Ella was seeking messages from Robert. After traveling around the United States she was unable to find anyone to help her so she returned home. Ella felt that Robert was telling her to go to France to comfort the American Soldiers. Against the advice of friends, she went. [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

Mrs. Wilcox devoted considerable attention to spiritualism, and after many efforts satisfied herself that she had
communicated with her husband. She recounted her experience at length and still further added to her followers by her
announced spiritualistic beliefs.  [The New York Times]

1917 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The Collected poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. London: Gay & Hancock, 1917.

Kipling's "Gunda-Din" up to date. Ford a la France. [also] Soldiers come back clean. [n.p.]: Rodeheaver & Taylor. A.E.F., Y.M.C.A., 1917.

Officer of the Supreme Council of the American Rosicrucian Movement. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

1918 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

The Englishman and other poems. London: Gay, 1918.

Officer of the Supreme Council of the American Rosicrucian Movement. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

At her husband's direction (she said), Wilcox undertook a lecture and poetry-reading tour of Allied army camps in France in 1918. [Encyclopædia Britannica]

1919 The Bungalow, Short Beach, Connecticut

Died, October 30, 1919 at her home in Short Beach, Connecticut.

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Oct. 30--Mrs. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poetess, died at her home, The Bungalow, in Brnford
today. Mrs. Wilcox had been ill for several months, having had a nervous collapse while engaged in war relief work in Enland.
Her death was not unexpected to those who share the seclusion of her home. The exact nature of her final illness is not stated.
Mrs. Wilcox had been constantly under medical care for nine months. During her illness overseas messages to friends despaired
of her recovery.

The illness which ended in her death was brought on by exertions during the war. With characteristic energy, she gave her aid
to the Red Cross and went from camp to camp in France, lecturing to the soldiers on sex problems.

She regained a measure of her strength, and in July was brought to Branford in fulfillment of a desire to be in her own home, the
place wherein most of her literary work had been done.

After cremation Mrs. Wilcox's ashes will be taken to Short Beach and the receptable sealed in a niche in the granite ledge on
which The Bungalow stands. This was done with the ashes of Mr. Wilcox. [The New York Times]

She had not been well for several years. In France she became seriously ill, was taken to England, and then returned home where she died of cancer on October 31, 1919.  [The Milton House Museum Historic Site, Milton, Wisconsin]

Cinema poems and others. London : Gay and Hancock, 1919.

Hello boys! London : Gay and Hancock, 1919.

Officer of the Supreme Council of the American Rosicrucian Movement. [The little sayings of the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]

A malignant growth in one breast caused her death, October 30, 1919, at her home in Short Beach, Conn. [Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women.]