Ednah Dow Littlehale Cheney was born on 22 June 1842, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Sargent Parker Littlehale and Ednah Parker. On 19 May 1853, she married Seth Wells Cheney, a portrait artist with poor health, who passed away only three years after their marriage. They had one child, Margaret Swan Cheney, who went on to become an influential class member at MIT before dying of Tuberculosis in 1882. Ednah herself was prolific writer, reformer, and philanthropist, with a number of published works to her name, including a memoir of her husband as well as Gleanings in the Field of Art (1881), and The life of Louisa May Alcott (1888). She also held multiple positions of authority in several organizations and committees dedicated to social justice and equality, such as the Committee on Aid for the Colored Regiments and the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. She also served as an art history lecturer for a time at the Concord School of Philosophy, and she made several visits in her 20’s and 30’s to Europe and to the South to visit the Freedmen’s Schools. She died on 19 November 1904, in Manchester, Connecticut.
This single-leaf, handwritten letter contains Mrs. Cheney’s expression of admiration of and gratitude for Antonín Dvořák’s composition and performance of his symphony, “From the New World,” which she had heard the Saturday evening before she wrote to him, in 1895. She talks about how the symphony connected in her mind and heart to such songs as “Swing Low – Sweet Chariot,” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Nobody Knows but Jesus,” as they were sung by the slaves of the South, when she visited there. In her letter, she encourages Mr. Dvořák to visit the South, if he has not already, and experience for himself the culture and traditions of the people there. She closes the letter with a final word of appreciation.