Thursday, June 15, 2023

Writer Sarah A. Brock Putnam buried in Hollywood Cemetery (Richmond, Va)

From American Women (1893), p. 590.
When I published my research on Women Writers Buried in Virginia, I dedicated the book to the women writers buried in Virginia cemeteries whom I have not yet discovered. 

I’m glad that I keep discovering them. There are twenty-three cemeteries represented in the book. The majority includes one or two women writers buried there with two exceptions—“Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, which has twelve women writers interred, and Arlington National Cemetery, which has five” (15). Make that a lucky 13 for Hollywood Cemetery. 

When reading Mary Tardy’s 1872 The Living Female Writers of the South, I overlooked Miss Sallie A. Brock, who often published under the pseudonym Virginia Madison. Born on March 18. 1831 as Sarah Ann Brock in Madison Court House, Brock went by the name Sallie. She was tutored at home by her father and later by governesses. Her family moved to the University of Virginia where Brock lived for eight years before the family moved to Richmond in 1858 where she devoted her studies to oil-painting and writing. Within a few years, Brock’s dreams of becoming an authoress would be put on hold due to the Civil War. 

After the war, Brock moved to New York to work around other writers. In 1869, her collection of poems from Southern poets, The Southern Amaranth, was published to benefit the Ladies’ Memorial Association, organized groups of southern white women who sought out the bodies of their fathers, uncles, brothers and cousins who were Confederate soldiers who had fallen in war and whose bodies were left in fields and made arrangements for their bodies to be interred in cemeteries. From 1869-1870, Brock traveled Europe where her letters were published. 

Brock wrote editorials, historical articles, essays, biographies, poetry, and a novel. She is best remembered for her memoir, Richmond During the War: Four Years of Personal Observation (1867), which was published “by a Richmond Lady.” Brock even references Hollywood Cemetery within her memoir. Her only published novel, Kenneth, My King (1873) described as “A romance set in the American South patterned after Jane Eyre, about an intelligent young woman who is unmarried and left to fend for herself.” The novel was poorly reviewed but that did not stop me from clicking purchase on a first edition copy that I found online. 

On January 11, 1882, Brock married a minister, Richard Fletcher Putnam who was also a member of the Boston publishing family. They lived in New York and Connecticut. While she continued to contribute to magazines and wrote novels, her focus had changed from writing to family. She attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 that was held in Chicago where she participated with other Virginia authors. 

On March 22, 1911, she passed and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery next to her husband who died five years before her. 

Richmond Times-Dispatch Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1911, p 2.

Works referenced: 
Driggs, Sarah, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Sarah Ann Brock (1831–1911)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 15 Jun. 2023 

Tardy, Mary. The Living Female Writers of the South. Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1872, 404-408.

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