Louise Imogen Guiney (1861-1920) was a poet and writer from Boston. Her work included sonnets and other formal poetry, as well as essays and biographies.
Guiney came from an Irish American Catholic family and her father was a well-know Union officer in the Civil War. In the 1890s she was part of several literary societies, allowing her to interact with established as well as up-and-coming writers, and introduced several of the friends who would form the Visionists.
At a time when most clubs and societies were single-gender, the Visionists were an exception– Guiney took part in their mostly-male gatherings as did fellow writer Alice Brown. The journal The Knight Errant took it’s name from one of Guiney’s poems, included in the first issue.
Unlike her close friend F. Holland Day, who came from a wealthy family, Guiney had to find time for writing while working day jobs. She ran the Auburndale post office in Newton, Massachusetts, and later became a cataloguer at the Boston Public Library. In 1901 she moved to England, where she felt she could better focus on writing.
Guiney’s Catholic identity was very important to her at a time when discrimination against Irish Catholics was common in New England. In his autobiography Ralph Adams Cram recalls that many residents of Newton refused to use the Auburndale post office after learning it was run by a “Papist”. Her bohemian Boston friends flocked to Auburndale to buy stamps and insure she met her quota.
Guiney and her mother owned a beach house in Maine, nicknamed “Castle Guiney”. Day bought the house from them as a way of helping Louise financially, and renovated it to the “Little Good Harbor” estate where he did much of his later work and hosted fellow photographers.
Above: Portrait by F. Holland Day, 1893, of Louise Imogen Guiney, dressed as St. Barbara (with halo added in pencil!) St. Barbara is associated with soldiers and this persona may have been inspired by Guiney’s war hero father. Print in the Library of Congress.
Above: Drawing of Louise Imogen Guiney by Thomas Meteyard, her author picture for a book published by Copeland and Day.
Above: Portrait of Louise Imogen Guiney from Loyola University Special Collections.