Lydia Maria Francis (Child) led a meaningful and courageous life advocating for those who had no voice. She began her career as an advocate for the oppressed when she published her first novel at the age of 21. Throughout her life she continued to write novels with divisive subjects, constantly fighting for the "underdogs" in our society. At the time, much of her focus was on equal rights for African Americans, Native Americans, women, and children.
One of the reasons she kept writing books with themes exposing racism, slavery, and oppression was to reach a wider audience. She wanted to reach people through storytelling. She wrote many politically charged books filled with passion and compassion. Her work was truly inspirational. It called for the immediate emancipation of slaves with no compensation to the slave owners. Not one to let unpopularity of subject be the end of conversation, she personally financed the books' publication and distribution.
She could have thought that no one would listen to a woman. She could have turned a blind eye to the plight of the Indians in the West and the slaves in the South. After all, They were far away. But she didn't let her fears or even her culture dictate what was right. In the introduction of her most famous work, An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans,she states, “I am fully aware of the unpopularity of the task I have undertaken; but though I expect ridicule and censure, I do not fear them.”
Lydia Maria Child poured all of her effort, much of her money, and most of her life into gaining justice for the oppressed.
Whenever anyone commented on her fiery passion for these causes, she often quoted a poem written by David Barker. This poem helped popularize the phrase "underdog" as a metaphor. Lydia always fought for the underdogs of society.
The Under Dog in the Fight
I know that the world, the great big world,
Will never a moment stop
To ask which dog may be in the fault,
But will shout for the dog on top!
But for me, I shall never pause to ask
Which dog may be in the right.
For my heart will beat, while it beats at all,
For the under dog in the fight.
Child, Lydia Maria. Letters of Lydia Maria Child. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1883. (Link)
Child, Lydia Maria. An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans.
An American (Lydia Maria Child). Hobomok. Boston: Cummings, Hilliard & Co., 1824.
Cryer, Max. Common Phrases: And the Amazing Stories Behind Them. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2010.