ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
1850-1919 poet and journalist
Born on November 5, 1850, in Johnstown Center, Rock County, Wisconsin, Ella Wheeler grew up there and in Windsor, Wisconsin. She attended local public schools and 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. Her first published work, some sketches submitted to the «New York Mercury», appeared when she was fourteen. Soon her poems were appearing in the «Waverly Magazine» and «Leslie's Weekly». Except for a year, 1867-1868, at the University of Wisconsin, she devoted herself thereafter to writing and soon was making a substantial contribution to the family's support.
Wheeler's first book, a collection of temperance verses, appeared in 1872 as «Drops of Water». «Shells», religious and moral poems, followed in 1873 and «Maurine», a highly sentimental verse narrative, in 1876. The rejection of her next book, a collection of love poems, by a Chicago publisher on grounds that it was immoral helped insure the success of the book when it was issued by another publisher 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 her reputation.
In May 1884 she married Robert M. Wilcox, a businessman with whom she lived in Meriden, Connecticut, until 1887 and in New York City until 1906. While making herself the center of a literary coterie she continued to pour out verses laced with platitudes and easy profundities; they were collected in such volumes as «Men, Women, and Emotions», 1893, «Custer and Other Poems», 1895, «Poems of Pleasure», 1888, «Poems of Power», 1901, «Poems of Sentiment», 1906, «Poems of Progress», 1909, «Pastels», 1909, «Sailing Sunny Seas», 1910, «Gems», 1912, «Cameos», 1914, and «World Voices», 1918.
She also wrote much fiction, including «Mal Moulée», 1885, «Perdita and Other Stories», 1886, «An Ambitious Man», 1887, «A Double Life», 1890, «Was It Suicide?», 1891, «Sweet Danger», 1892, «An Erring Woman' s Love», 1892, and «A Woman of the World», 1904. She published two works of autobiography, «The Story of a Literary Career», 1905, and «The Worlds and I», 1918. She contributed columns of prose and poetry to various newspapers and articles and essays to «Cosmopolitan» and other magazines.
After her husband's death in 1916 Wilcox made her long-standing interest in spiritualism the subject of a series of columns as she sought - - successfully, she claimed -- to contact his spirit. (Her interest in such topics had earlier found outlet in such books as «The Heart of the New Thought», 1902, and «New Thought Common Sense», 1908.) At his direction (she said) she undertook a lecture and poetry-reading tour of Allied army camps in France in 1918. She fell ill early in 1919, spent some time in a nursing home in Bath, England, and died at her home in Short Beach, Connecticut, on October 30, 1919.
Hopkins' personal magnetism was widely testified
to, and the gentle persuasiveness of her
unsystematic theology, which she later called "Spiritual Science," drawing on the Bible and other
sacred texts, philosophers, and mystics, spread her influence abroad. At length students of hers
were conducting classes in San Francisco, Kansas City, Boston, New York, and elsewhere.
Among those directly influenced by her were Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, founders of Unity,
Malinda E. Cramer and Nona L. Brooks, founders of Divine Science, Annie Rix Militz, founder
of The Home of Truth, and Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science. Thus within the loose
amalgamation of the many religio-metaphysical groups that were known collectively as the New
Thought movement, Emma Hopkins became known as the "Teacher of Teachers." In 1920-1922
she published «High Mysticism» in 12 small volumes. She spent her later years in New York
City, where her students included Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and John Jay
Chapman. She died in New York City on April 25, 1925.