Carlotta Perry

This was a time between Walt Whitman and Thoreau, the romantics, and Carl Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay, the realists. Carlotta’s poetry is her own, but carries with it much of the deep searching of the soul so prevalent with the romantics. In the 1881 History of Milwaukee, she is described as a “woman of the West, both by birth and the freshness, vigor and breadth of her poetry.” The author goes on to say, “She is thoroughly identified with the life and thought of lake and forest and prairie.”

Close by the fences, in still country-ways,
The plumage of the crimson sumac shines;
From tree and shrub with every zephyr sways
The fairy drapery of scarlet vines…

From An Autumn Day — by Carlotta Perry

Her journalism was also praised, as in her description of a trip to the Wisconsin Editorial Association Annual Meeting in Milwaukee. Her article is filled with vivid pictures of visits to “breweries of Best & Co.” and “the Rolling Mills” in Bay View as well as entertainment by the “Blind Orchestra from Janesville” and an address by the “handsomest man in the state,” Mr. W.D. Hoard of Jefferson. Carlotta was a member of the Editorial Association in Wisconsin and was honored by being asked to write and recite a poem for the state-wide convention in 1875. It was printed in full on the front page of the Democrat and praised, but called “a little long” by the reviewer. She again was invited to write and read a poem for the annual convention of the Wisconsin Editorial and Publisher Association in 1881 after which the attendees traveled to Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Recognition of her poetry continued to grow after she moved with her mother to Milwaukee in 1880. In the city directory and in articles about the author, she is listed as living on the northwest corner of Mason and Jackson Streets in a boarding house owned by George Perry. The 1881 History of Milwaukee includes Carlotta as a “gifted poet,” printing her poem Discontent as evidence of her skill.

Carlotta wrote for the Milwaukee Sentinel and by then was “the center of a group of women writers of Wisconsin who were well known to the literary world of the eastern states,” as described in a memorial after her death. This was no small feat especially considering the struggles women faced in receiving any amount of literary recognition. She was successful, though, as the American Women biography says, “The recognition she has always received and the prompt acceptance of her manuscripts have united to give constant encouragement and inspiration.”

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