Quiz Bio: Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt (11 Aug 1836 – 22 Dec 1919) was born into royalty… Kentucky royalty, that is. She was a member of the Boone and Bryan families. In April 1861, renowned poet Sallie M. Bryan married John James Piatt, a rising star in the poetry and publishing world, and a royal descendant himself–his grandfather and great uncles serving under George Washington and rewarded with land in the West (Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio). After they married, they lived in Washington, D.C., and North Bend, Ohio, while J. J. served as Librarian of Congress and as Assistant to U.S. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. They returned full-time to live in North Bend and Cincinnati, where Sarah’s work flourished – marked by the geo-political divide of the Ohio River, her sense of self, her grievous losses in life, her sharp wit, and her careful craft. In major publications, Sarah was hailed the greatest woman poet of the 1800s, being compared to the likes of Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. When J. J.’s consulate position brought them to Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland, in 1882, Sarah’s work blurred the images of a post-famine, pre-civil war Irish landscape with the Reconstruction era Cincinnati landscape. Here, she’d continue to suffer more devastating losses like she had in North Bend. After the consulship ended in 1893, the two traveled throughout Europe and the U.S. before retiring to North Bend and Cincinnati after a failed attempt at another consulate position. There, they built a home, styled after their Irish manor. Sarah and J. J., in their waning national influence and popularity, continued to dominate social and literary culture in Cincinnati. J. J. died in 1917, their son Fred and their daughter Marian in 1918, and Sarah in 1919. J. J., Sarah, and Marian are all buried in plots next to each other in Spring Grove Cemetery, where a cruel world around them would forget the significant contributions of these two in a royal marriage.