Lizette Woodworth Reese was born and raised in Waverly, Maryland, just off the road that ran between Baltimore and York, Pennsylvania. She began her teaching career at age 17 at nearby St. John's Episcopal Church's parish school and in 1901, moved to Baltimore's Western High School, where she taught English until she retired in 1921.
Johns Hopkins University professor and long-time acquaintance David M. Robinson described her this way: "With her sound-minded simplicity, [she] seemed to me like a charming child. But she had a genial humanism equal to that of the ancient Greeks She was a lovely little lady with a staccato touch in her voice and sometimes a lively, lilting lisp. But she had a wonderful, strong, and fearless personality."
Poet Amy Lowell said that Reese's poem "Tears" was "as fine a sonnet as any by Elizabeth Barrett Browning." That poem was first published in Scribner's magazine. Reese said that the check from Scribner's arrived just a few hours after her father's death, "as the crape was being hung from the door."
Reese lived in her childhood home until her mother died, lived the last 20 years of her life with her sister's family, and died at Church Home and Infirmary (as did Edgar Allan Poe 90 years earlier). She's buried in her old neighborhoodnow in the heart of Baltimorein the graveyard next to St. John's Church.
Places of interest:
- St. John's Episcopal Church and graveyardGreenmount Ave. and Old York Rd. (Coincidentally, PBS used St. John's steeple as the setting for Marianne Moore's poem "The Steeplejack" in its Voices & Visions series.)
- Western High SchoolLafayette and McCulloh Sts. (now Booker T. Washington Middle School)
- 2926 Harford Rd.For the last 20 years of her life, Reese lived here with her sister and her sister's husband.
- Church Home & InfirmaryN. Broadway, just down the hill from Johns Hopkins Hospital.
- Lizette Woodworth Reese Memorials—There are three in Baltimore:
- a bronze memorial tablet is mounted on the wall of the Pratt Library, Cathedral and Franklin Streets, second floor next to the Edgar Allan Poe Room;
- a bronze plaque, on which is inscribed her sonnet "Tears," next to the main office at the "new" Western High School, 4600 Falls Rd;
- and a larger memorial on the grounds of Eastern High School, Loch Raven and 33rd Streets.
- Phyllis Hill: Who Will Sing My Songs? The Poetry of Lizette Woodworth Reese
- Lizette Woodworth Reese: "Poetry as a Factor in Education." The Independent, August, 1898.
- Frank Shivers: Maryland Wits and Baltimore
- Bards Western High School: Past and Present 1844-1944.