Sarah "Susan" Chauncy Woolsey
Artist - Marilyn O'Donnell

(signed - hidden in the green grass).


Sarah grew up in an attractive home on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, surrounded by an atmosphere of modest wealth and leisure. Born into a family related not only to Jonathan Edwards and Governor Winthrop, but also to three presidents of Yale: Sarah's great-uncle, Timothy Dwight; her uncle, Theodore Dwight Woolsey; and her cousin, Timothy Dwight, Sarah was always vigorous, with a great gusto for life. She enjoyed almost equally the many books the house afforded and the acres of garden and woodland that enclosed it.

Photos of Sarah' Home, Rhode Island Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island
Sarah's Home (1) Sarah's Home (2) Sarah's Home (3)

As a student, first in private schools in Cleveland, later in Mrs. Hubbard's Boarding School in Hanover, NH, she was outstanding in her classes, delighting especially in history and literature. About 1855 the family removed to New Haven, CT, and this city became her home for almost twenty years. During the Civil War she devoted herself with characteristic energy to hospital work and helped to organize the nursing service. After her father's death in 1870, she spent two years abroad, chiefly in Italy, with her mother and sisters. Upon their return they built a charming house in Newport, RI. There she lived for the rest of her life, except for summers spent at Northeast harbor, ME, at Onteora Park in the Catskills, and occasional visits to Europe

Although she had amused herself from childhood by writing little tales and poems, she published nothing until after the Civil War. Then books, poems, and magazine articles, signed "Susan Coolidge," rapidly made her well known.

She contributed to many of the best known periodicals in America from 1870 to 1900. She was the author of three volumes of poetry: Verses (1880); A few More Verses (1889); and Last Verses (1906), printed after her death with a memoir by her sister. She edited the Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs. Delany (2 vols., 1879), The Diary and Letters of Frances Burney, Madam d'Arblay (2 vols., 1880), and Letters of Jane Austen (1892), wrote a Short History of the City of Philadelphia (1887), made occasional translations from the French, and acted as consulting reader for her publishers, Roberts Brothers. But she was known chiefly as a popular writer of stories for young people. Her first book for girls, The New-Year's Bargain, appeared in 1871, and from then until 1890 she produced a new volume almost yearly. Her tales were lively in tone, sensible, wholesome, and pleasingly moral.

Among the best known were: What Katy Did (1872), What Katy Did At School (1873), Mischief's Thanksgiving (1874), Nine Little Goslings (1875), For Summer Afternoons (1876), Eyebright (1879), A Guernsey Lily (1880), Cross Patch (1881), A Round Dozen (1883), A Little Country Girl (1885), Just Sixteen (1889), In the High Valley (1891), The Barberry Bush (1893), Not Quite Eighteen (1894), An Old Convent School in Paris and Other Papers (1895).

Her vivid personality and many-sided interests endeared her to friends and relatives. She wrote easily, talked well, was fond of games of all sorts, sketched, painted, and took an active part in the religious and social life about her. She was a notable addition to any group because of her stimulating wit, her wide knowledge of books, and her ability to share with others her abounding zest for living.

Source of information: The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY, 10024-5194 (212) 873-3400.

On-Line links: What Katy Did

Biographical website

2010 November 5, from Christine & Glyn
Subject: Sarah Woolsey ("Susan Coolidge")

I thought I'd let you know that we had a most successful visit to Long Island and Newport RI last month. We drove to Long Island and found the Woolsey Family burying ground at Dosoris, near Glen Cove. It is a beautiful little graveyard, and seems well looked after. I was able at last to see Sarah Woolsey's grave as well as those of many other family members, including her father John and brother William. We took photographs of all the graves in the cemetery, although the inscriptions on some of the very earliest ones were not decipherable, unfortunately. I loved the inscription on Sarah's gravestone: "I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness".

The following day we drove up to Newport, Rhode Island. We visited the St Mary's Episcopal Church graveyard and saw Sarah's sister Dora, and their mother Jane's, graves and took photos. It's a pretty churchyard, though I still can't understand why Dora and Jane were buried there when Sarah, their father and other siblings and relatives are all in the Long Island burying ground.

After that we went to 93 Rhode Island Avenue and met Marilyn O'Donnell who lives in part of what was the Woolsey house. We were able to look at her apartment and take photos, and, luckily, the owners of the floor above were at home and willingly invited us into their apartment and showed us around. The house still boasts many of the original features and is a spacious, light house. I feel very privileged to have been able to see inside it, and to have discussed the house and it's first owner with people who live there today.

Marilyn O'Donnell told me that she thought that the Woolseys were related to the Cornells and to Lizzie Borden ('took an axe'). Do you know if that is correct?

We had four days working in Yale University library and looked at 10 boxes of the Woolsey archive. We found much of interest, some of it being directly concerned with Sarah Woolsey and other things which will be useful background information. We found letters from Samuel Morse, who, it seems, was a cousin of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, unless we got that wrong, and also letters from people such as Longfellow. All in all a very useful visit.

Sarah's grave

92 Rhode Island Avenue, Newport, RI.

Best wishes

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