James Baldwin quote about growing up reading

James Baldwin

“I was born in Harlem, thirty-one years ago. I began plotting novels about the time I learned to read. The story of my childhood is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the restrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again. In those days my mother was given to the exasperating and mysterious habit of having babies. As they were born, I took them over with one hand and held a book with the other. The children probably suffered, though they have since been kind enough to deny it, and in this way I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and A Tale of Two Cities over and over and over again; in this way, in fact, I read just about everything I could get my hands on – except the Bible, probably because it was the only book I was encouraged to read. I must also confess that I wrote – a great deal – and my first professional triumph, in any case, the first effort of mine to be seen in print, occurred at the age of twelve or thereabouts, when a short story I had written about the Spanish revolution won some prize in an extremely short-lived church newspaper. I remember the story was censored by the lady editor, though I don’t remember why, and I was outraged.”

– James Baldwin, 1955.


Frances Willard quote about childhood and her mother

Frances Willard

“Mother was nearly thirty-five when I was born, the fourth of her five children, one of whom, the first, had passed away in infancy, and the third at the age of fourteen months. This little girl, Caroline Elizabeth, mother has always spoken of as the most promising child she ever bore, or, for that matter, ever saw. ‘She was a vision of delight,’ with deep blue eyes and dark brown hair; a disposition without flaw, her nerves being so well encased and her little spirit so perfectly equipoised that she would sit or lie in her cradle cooing to herself by the hour, and when she rode, the beauty of the world outdoors seemed so well apprehend by the seraphic child that her little hands were constantly outstretched and her sweet eyes were full of light and comprehension, while her silver voice took on such an ecstasy as was remarked by all who knew her. My little sister passed to heaven just as she began to speak the language of this world. My mother’s first great grief then broke her heart, and as I came less than one year afterward, the deep questionings and quivering pathos of her spirit had their effect on mine. She lived much with her books, especially the Bible and the poets, in this chastened interval. Many a time she said to me, ‘Frank, above all things else thank heaven you were a welcome child, of I had prayed so often that another little girl might come into our home for us to love.'”

– Frances Willard, who would become an educator, temperance reformer, women’s suffragist and national president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1879, a position she held until her death in 1898.

Frances was guided in life by the belief that “The Lord is real, His whole nature is love.”

Source of quote: Glimpses of fifty years; the autobiography of an American woman by Frances Willard