Caroline Sturgis Tappan (August 30, 1819 - October 20, 1888), commonly known as Caroline Sturgis, or "Cary" Sturgis, was an American Transcendentalist and poet.[1] Caroline Sturgis was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Elizabeth Marston Davis Sturgis (d. 1864), the daughter of a judge for the U.S. Court for the District of Massachusetts, and William F. Sturgis (1782-1863), a prominent sea captain and maritime merchant.[2][3] Known for her friendships and frequent correspondences with prominent American Transcendentalists, such as Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sturgis also attended Bronson Alcott's Temple School, was Margaret Fuller's student,[4] and she participated in Fuller's Conversations series. Sturgis had a substantial influence in Transcendentalist thought.[5] She published 25 poems in four different volumes of The Dial, a Transcendentalist periodical, and was a member of the Transcendental Club.[6] Her sister, Ellen Sturgis Hooper (1812-1848), was also a member and poet published in The Dial.


Caroline Sturgis was a middle child of Captain William and Elizabeth Sturgis, who had six children, William Watson (1810-1826), Ellen (1812-1848), Anne (1813-1884), Caroline (1819-1888), Mary Louisa (1821-1870), and Susan (1825-1853). The youngest of the Sturgis children, William Watson, died at the age of sixteen, drowned in a boating accident off the coast of Provincetown. William and Elizabeth lived separately for a period after the accident, and although Elizabeth eventually returned to live with her husband, the family never recovered from this tragedy.[7]

Margaret Fuller formally introduced Caroline Sturgis to Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts, in July 1836. Emerson knew her father from his time working as a minister in Boston and in previous visits to the Sturgis family, so he likely knew Caroline Sturgis when she was a child.[8] Sturgis had befriended Emerson's wife, Lydian Jackson, in 1835 at a party celebrating a cousin in Boston.[9] The friendship between Sturgis and Emerson grew, and they spent a great deal of time in conversation. Sturgis sometimes stayed in the Emerson family home while visiting Concord, and when she and Emerson were apart, they wrote to each other, continuing their discussions of philosophy and literature, such as Bettina von Arnim's Goethe's Correspondence with a Child.[10]

Sturgis was Margaret Fuller's primary confidante, a companion on Fuller's trip to the Great Lakes,[11] after which Fuller wrote Summer on the Lakes, and she was a catalyst to many of Fuller's ideas about art, women, mysticism, and more.[12] Both women loved one another in a romantic friendship similar to what Carroll Smith-Rosenberg describes in "The Female World of Love and Ritual."[12][13] Sturgis and her sister, Ellen, participated in Fuller's Conversations series.

Sturgis spent the summer of 1845 boarding at The Old Manse while Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody lived there, and remained friends with the Hawthornes.[14]

In 1847, Sturgis married William Aspinwall Tappan, son of abolitionist Lewis Tappan and Susanna Aspinwall, and they had two daughters, Ellen Sturgis Tappan Hooper (b. 1849) and Mary Aspinwall Tappan (1851-1941).[15][3] Mary, with her niece Rosamund Dixey Brooks Hepburn (1887-1948), later donated the family summer home, Tanglewood, in the Berkshires to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[16][17]

External LinksEdit


  1. ^ Richardson, Robert D. (November 6, 1995). Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-0520206892.
  2. ^ Dedmond, Francis B. (1988). "The Letters of Caroline Sturgis to Margaret Fuller". Studies in the American Renaissance: 201–251. JSTOR 30227564.
  3. ^ a b "Caroline Sturgis Tappan". Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  4. ^ Marshall, Megan (2014). Margaret Fuller: A New American Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 115. ISBN 978-0544245617.
  5. ^ Marshall, Megan (May 11, 2006). The Peabody Sisters. Mariner Books. p. 296. ISBN 978-0618711697.
  6. ^ Myerson, Joel (1980). The New England Transcendentalists and the Dial: A History of the Magazine and Its Contributors. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses.
  7. ^ Dedmond, Francis B. (1988). "The Letters of Caroline Sturgis to Margaret Fuller". Studies in the American Renaissance: 202.
  8. ^ Dedmond, Francis B. (1988). "The Letters of Caroline Sturgis to Margaret Fuller". Studies in the American Renaissance: 203. JSTOR 30227564.
  9. ^ Argersinger, Jana; Cole, Phyllis, eds. (2014). "Introduction". Toward a Female Genealogy of Transcendentalism. Athens: University of Georgia Press. p. 19.
  10. ^ Miller, Perry (1957). The American transcendentalists : Their prose and poetry. Garden City: Doubleday anchor books. p. 275.
  11. ^ Wider, Sarah Ann (2014). ""How it All Lies Before Me Today": Transcendentalist Women's Journeys into Attention". In Argersinger, Jana; Cole, Phyllis (eds.). Toward a Female Genealogy of Transcendentalism. Athens: University of Georgia Press. p. 157.
  12. ^ a b Lawrence, Kathleen (2011). "Soul Sisters and the Sister Arts: Margaret Fuller, Caroline Sturgis, and Their Private World of Love and Art". ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance. 57 (1): 79–104. doi:10.1353/esq.2011.0020.
  13. ^ Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll (Autumn 1975). "The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations between Women in Nineteenth-Century America". Signs. 1: 1–29. doi:10.1086/493203.
  14. ^ Wayne, Tiffany K. (May 14, 2014). Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism: The Essential Guide to the Lives and Works of Transcendentalist Writers. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 275.
  15. ^ "Sturgis-Tappan Family Papers, 1812-1982". Five College Archives & Manuscript Collection. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  16. ^ "Tanglewood Music Festival - People Who Made it Happen". Lenox History. February 10, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  17. ^ Pendle, Karin (2001). Women & Music: A History (Second ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 490.