Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a poet known for her sentimental verses on varying themes of love and passion. She was born on November 5, 1850 in Johnstown Center, WI, and died on October 30, 1919. Throughout her lifetime Ella published over twenty volumes of poetry and fiction and was widely published in local and national newspapers and magazines. Ella is most known for her line, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep and you weep alone,” which she wrote while visiting the Judge Arthur B. Braley family at their house in Madison, WI.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in
Johnstown Center, WI on November 5, 1850. She was the daughter of farmers Marcus
Hartwell Wheeler and Sarah Pratt. As she matured into young adulthood, Ella grew discontented with her
life in rural Wisconsin. Spurred to action by her mother’s encouragement,
teenage Ella began submitting her poetry to popular magazines for publication.
While her attempts were at first unsuccessful, Ella would become a widely read and
popular poet during the course of her lifetime, publishing over twenty volumes
Ella’s poetry features themes of
love and passion, daily life, social issues of her day such as intemperance,
and history. She wrote prose and fiction as well as poetry, and her writing was
published in local Wisconsin newspapers and national magazines. While Ella is
not considered one of the great poets of her time, she was extensively read by
a large audience who looked to her for guidance, comfort, and understanding.
Later in her life, Ella married Robert
M. Wilcox in 1884 and moved from Wisconsin to Connecticut and then to New York.
At her husband’s suggestion, Ella began to study theosophy. After his death in
1916 she grew intensely interested in communicating with him from beyond the
grave through her study of Spiritualism. Ella died on October 30, 1919.
The most famous line from Ella’s
poetry reads: “Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep and you weep alone,” from
her poem Solitude. Ella wrote these
timeless lines while visiting the Judge Arthur B. Braley family in Madison, WI.
The Braley house still stands today at 422 North Henry Street in Madison, WI.