Lizette in youth
Lizette Woodworth Reese
Portrait of Lizette Woodworth Reese
Johns Hopkins University Eastern Campus, 1101 E 33rd St, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
Lizette Reese graduated from Eastern High School, Baltimore.
Educated in Baltimore's public schools, Lizette graduated from Eastern High School, Baltimore.
After graduation, Lizette Reese began teaching at the parish school of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waverly, Maryland, in 1873. She continued teaching English in Baltimore public schools until her retirement in 1921.
Although Lizette had a personal history of writing poetry long before she began her career as a teacher, it was only after she began teaching at St. John’s Parish School in Waverly that Reese began actively trying to publish her verse. Her first poem, The Deserted House, inspired by a building she passed on her way to school each day, was published in Southern Magazine in 1874. Reese's first collection of thirty-three poems, A Branch of May, appeared in 1887 in a limited edition available to subscribers who paid seventy-five cents a piece for their copies. In addition to the copies she distributed to subscribers, Reese sent some twenty-odd copies to the leading literary figures of the day, including Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Dean Howells, and Edmund Clarence Stedman, all of whom received it favorably.
The lyricism of A Branch of May was echoed in Reese’s other collections, including A Handful of Lavender, A Quiet Road, A Wayside Lute, and Spicewood. Reese's fresh images, condensed form, and sincerity of emotion broke with conventional sentimentality and foreshadowed 20th-century lyricism. Her best-known poem is the sonnet “Tears,” published in 1899 in Scribner’s magazine and widely anthologized. In addition to poems, she authored two books of reminiscences, A Victorian Village and The York Road, as well as one autobiographical novel, Worleys. Lizette was also a frequent contributor of poetry to Southern Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and Smart Set.
Reese died in 1935, from complications of a kidney infection.
Reese was a member of Edgar Allan Poe Society and Women's Literary Club.