Sylvia Hortense Bliss

Sylvia Bliss. Courtesy of Vermont Public Radio
Sylvia Bliss. Courtesy of Vermont Public Radio

Time Period

1860-1910

Subject Categories

Arts, Science / Engineering, Writers

Notable Facts

Writer, botanist, and musician. Several articles were published in the American Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Published two books of poetry: Quests, Poems in Prose and Sea Level.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

12/13/1870

Date of Death

03/14/1963

Primary Residence

East Calais

Historical Significance

Sylvia Hortense Bliss was a writer, botanist, and musician. Several of her articles were published in the American Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. She also published two books of poetry: "Quests, Poems in Prose" and "Sea Level".

Sylvia Hortense Bliss was born in Toledo, Ohio to Elmina Marsh and Warren Earl Bliss, both of whom were originally from East Calais, Vermont. She was eldest of four children and spent her childhood in Des Moines, Iowa. Bliss studied music in Iowa and spent two years at Syracuse University studying with private teachers. In 1885, the family returned to East Calais, where Bliss would spend the majority of her life.

In addition to giving piano lessons and being the church organist, Bliss was also a self-taught botanist. She gave her 400 specimen herbarium to Montpelier's Kellogg-Hubbard Library, but it was lost in the 1927 flood. Bliss's first published writings were short stories that appeared in the Vermont Watchman and State Gazette and The Vermonter: The State Magazine. She also contributed poetry and prose to Driftwood, a literary journal. While receiving treatment for a speech handicap, Bliss researched and published articles such as "The Origin of Laughter," and "The Significance of Clothes," for the American Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. She is the author of two books of poetry: "Quests, Poems in Prose" (1920) and "Sea Level" (1922). Forest K. Davis collected the majority of her work and published it as "Uncut Leaves" in 1990. Davis also wrote a biography of Bliss, "Bird of Utica: Life, Thought and Art of Sylvia H. Bliss, 1870-1963" and donated the Bliss papers to the Vermont Historical Society, where they can be viewed today.

Bliss lived with her parents until their deaths, and then moved to Rochester, Vermont to stay with her brother, Clifford, and his wife Lou until her own death in 1963.

Occupations

  • Musician
  • Botanist
  • Author
  • Poet

Education

  • Syracuse University

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Sylvia Hortense Bliss Papers Link

  • Amy Cunningham Talks About Sylvia Bliss Link