Sigourney Street is named for Lydia Huntley Sigourney, known as "the sweet singer of Hartford." She was among the first American women to succeed at a literary career and was an important force in feminine sentimental fiction in the second quarter of the 19th century. Her sentimentality endeared her to Hartford residents and thousands others who asked her to write poetic obituaries for loved ones and even pets. In her memoir, "Letters of Life," she estimated that she responded to 2,000 letters annually.
The only child of Ezekial and Zerviah Wentworth Huntley, Sigourney was born in 1791 in Norwich, where she operated a private school for young ladies from 1811 to 1813. At the invitation of the Wadsworth family, she moved to Hartford in 1814 and opened a similar school. In 1815, she began writing for periodicals and published her first book, "Moral Pieces, in Prose and Verse."
In 1819, she married merchant Charles Sigourney, a widower with three children. After their marriage she wrote anonymously; her husband opposed her using her name. Her writing proceeds went to charitable causes, from the temperance movement to missions at home and abroad. Sigourney wrote more than 50 books and contributed more than two thousand articles to nearly 300 periodicals. Many of her poems appeared in The Courant during the 1830s.
She began using her own name in 1833 - Charles' business was failing and Lydia needed money to care for her aging parents - and soon became what many historians call the most popular female poet of her day. The Sigourneys' Georgian mansion on Hurlburt Street became a gathering place for Hartford's literati, but the family's financial situation did not improve, and they moved to a smaller house on High Street in 1838.
Charles Sigourney died in 1854. Lydia Sigourney died on June 10, 1865. Church bells in the city tolled for one hour in her honor. A glowing obituary in The Courant called her kind, generous and well-loved by all. When she visited Europe, she was received in the highest literary and society circles.
The city named Sigourney Street after her on July 12, 1862. It ran between Asylum and Farmington avenues. After her death, Huntley Place in Hartford and Sigourney, Iowa, were named for her. The Sigourney mansion was razed in 1938. Hurlburt Street was near Asylum Avenue and no longer exists.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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