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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Mrs. Rebecca H. S. Pollard

Rebecca Harrington Smith Pollard, author, was born in Allegheny City, Pa., in 1831.  She was educated by her father, Professor Nathaniel Ruggles Smith, a graduate of Harvard, who is said to have taught fifty years in advance of his time.  Miss Smith, herself, adopted the pedagogical profession and also contributed frequently to literary periodicals.  Mark Twain once stated that he remembered "setting up" some of her poems.  George D. Prentice, editor of the Louisville Courier Journal, was interested in her career, and through him she met her first husband, Mr. Oliver I. Taylor.  Mr. Taylor, a gifted poet and editor, died two years and six months after their marriage, leaving his widow with a little daughter, who, also, passed away in 1869, on her tenth birthday.  A poem, entitled "Maymie," written by her mother in memory of this child, was published in book form in 1870.  It is a poem full of tender pathos, peculiarly comforting to bereaved mothers.  Mrs. Taylor was afterwards married to James Pollard, an Iowa state senator.  Four children were born to them, three of whom are still living.  Mr. Pollard died in April, 1902.  Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia, published a volume of Mrs. Pollard's poems --- "Centennial and Other Poems" --- in 1876.  She is also the author of a novel, dealing with conditions prevalent at the time of the Civil War and called "Emma Bartlett or Prejudice and Fanaticism."  "Full Surrender," one of Mrs. Pollard's hymns, ranks among the most popular consecration songs of the present century.  One of her best poems is "The Legend of Indian Summer."  In her eightieth year, although nearly blind, she composed a story in verse --- "Tlthea, or the Morning Glory" --- which was published by Sherman, French & Co., of Boston, Mass.  It tells the story of the summoning to service of a missionary and her friends, it is full of missionary spirit and inspiration.  Mrs. Pollard's method of teaching beginners to read, known as the "Synthetic Sound System," with its teacher's manual, its series of spellers and readers and its stencil pictures, was the outcome of many years of practical experience in primary work.  She, herself, when a child, had been carefully drilled, by her father, in phonics.  She recognized the defects and limitations of the word method, and gradually originated and formulated a successful plan of teaching by sound and diacritical markings which unprejudiced students believe to be the foundation of the new education now so wisely used by primary instructors.  A letter, recently received, and signed by many Iowa school superintendents and teachers, gratefully acknowledges Mrs. Pollard's contribution to past and present generations.  Mrs. Pollard has shared the fate of almost every genius who discovers new and better paths for humanity.  She has been persecuted for the courage of her convictions, and her ideas and devices and illustrations have been appropriated, without permission, by imitators.  Nevertheless, she says, "My greatest compensation is found in the thought of the benefit my method affords to the children themselves."

Mrs. Pollards' home is in Ft. Madison.  Her children are Miss Adelaide Pollard, New York;  Mrs. Eleanor E. S. Ehart, and J. A. S. Pollard, Ft. Madison.



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