April 1, 2013
By Chloe Morse-Harding and Tricia Patterson
Elouisa Goose Partridge, Auntie Partridge, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 3, 1791 to Cumbersome Ernest Partridge and Harriet Abyssinia Goose. Her mother was rumored to be a second cousin to Mary Goose, an alleged identity of the famous Mother Goose, and she instilled in her daughter a great reverence for the Mother Goose canon. In fact, Elouisa’s first words were reportedly, “Honk, honk.”
Growing up, she memorized all of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes and would recite them on command or - often - unprompted. It was around the age of twelve that her father began to encourage the young Elouisa to compose some original works, and she at once began her life’s work of writing nursery rhymes.
She began to study children’s literature at Simmons College, and at the ripe age of nineteen, Partridge had her first rhyme published in the popular quarterly Bib’n Bottle. The nursery rhyme, untitled as it were, was to be her most noted accomplishment.
Ol’ Broadback Bertha
Has been whittled raw
With a mind to abuse ‘em
And whilst carving the wood
Did she do somethin’ gruesome
Now Ol’ Broadback Bertha,
She only stacks wood
The trees taught her good.
Bathed in the glow of success, she dropped out of her studies to pursue a prospectively brilliant career in writing. It was during these years that she most frequented the Boston Athenaeum, often perusing the collection of children’s literature and always visiting the Mother Goose tombstone in the Granary Burial grounds.
However, she found the competitive world of nursery rhyme composition difficult to make a living in, and in 1822, at age the of 21, she accepted a marriage proposal from Henry Elijah Partridge, a distant relation of her father’s who owned a small but profitable farm in the Massachusetts countryside.
Partridge continued her writing from the farm, and found a small press to print off a few volumes of her nursery rhymes. Over the years she appeared sporadically in Bib’n Bottle and Cursory Rhymes, but she never recaptured the success of her initial publication. She became increasingly involved with work on the farm, taking up loom-weaving with great zeal. After her husband passed away of cholera in 1851, Partridge decided she wanted to run the farm business, and run it she did – into the ground. Less than five years later, she was forced to close the farm and moved back to Boston to be taken care of by her niece. She continued her work with weaving and writing until her death - on November 14, 1888 - from very, very old age.