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Born to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri, poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) was attracted to the bohemian culture of New York from a young age, though she did not move to the city until 1916. In 1913, she visited Chicago and became friends with Harriet Monroe, who published several of Teasdale's poems in her influential Poetry magazine. Through Monroe, Teasdale met Vachel Lindsay, with whom she had an intense love affair. Teasdale turned down Lindsay's proposal of marriage, choosing instead Ernst Filsinger, a St. Louis manufacturer, whom she married in 1914. Two years after the couple moved to New York, Teasdale was awarded three major prizes for her Love Songs (1917), establishing her reputation as a poet gifted in representing the female perspective on romantic love. Her popularity grew over the years, and along with several volumes of her own verse, she edited two successful anthologies . Best known for her short love lyrics, Teasdale also wrote many poems about depression, an illness she suffered from for much of her life, along with chronic physical ailments. She divorced Filsinger in 1929 and was profoundly affected by the suicide of Vachel Lindsay, with whom she had maintained a deep personal connection, in 1931. Two years later, Teasdale committed suicide.
A letter from Sara Teasdale to Alice Corbin Henderson, October 18, 1916
The anthology discussed in this letter, The Answering Voice, was the first women-only collection of poetry to be published in the twentieth century. Comprising love poems by women from the mid-nineteenth century onward, the collection opened with Christina Rossetti and included short poems by dozens of poets, some still well-known and some forgotten, including Alice Corbin Henderson and two poets associated with Frank Shay's bookshop, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mary Carolyn Davies. Teasdale's comments about Henderson's illness at the end of the letter refer to her struggle with tuberculosis, which was diagnosed that year. For treatment, Henderson moved to New Mexico soon after.