The Reverend Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) was one of the most revered moral and thought leaders of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and yet, during twenty of his last twenty-five years, he lived a double life. From the first celebratory biography of Hale by his namesake son, however, through two later biographies, Hale's long marriage to the former Emily Baldwin Perkins (a member of the famed Beecher family) was described as successful, even cloudless. Edward Everett Hale Jr., who was aware of the reality, described his father's much younger, unmarried longtime soul mate and lover, Harriet E. Freeman (1847-1930), as his literary amanuensis, assistant in his charitable works, and old friend. Jean Holloway, the second and most insightful of Hale's biographers, lacking evidence to the contrary, reiterated Freeman's supportive role, while his last, literary biographer John Adams, mentioned her not at all, despite the fact that love letters between Hale and Freeman had been made available three years before his book's 1977 publication. And so Hale's impeccable reputation endured, with no hint of the human weaknesses that seemed to accompany the qualities of religious faith, creative intellect, tolerance, empathy, charm, humor, and energy that were so admired by his contemporaries.
In 1969, the Library of Congress acquired from a Freeman family descendant 3,000 of the Hale-Freeman love letters (1884-1909), written partly in code. Because interest in Hale had waned and potential researchers were probably daunted by the code, these letters remained unexamined for thirty-five years. Their significance became apparent only when Sara Day began studying the letters in 2006 and succeeded in breaking the code they used to express their love for each other.
"Day's informed research reminds me of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's Midwife's Tale, uncovering a previously unknown woman's role, with the added twist of deciphering the antiquated shorthand which is so central to uncovering the full love story. I'm also reminded of the popularity of recent books about wives and consorts of famous men such as The Paris Wife or the spate of novels about Zelda Fitzgerald."
― Mary Chitty, MSLS, Cambridge Healthtech.
"Sara Day scrapes the saintly veneer off Edward Everett Hale, the celebrated Unitarian minister, writer, and peace activist, uncovering the emotionally complex adulterer beneath. Day's account of how she discovered his long, and long hidden, extramarital affair, recorded in coded letters, seems like a real-life version of A.S. Byatt's Possession. Even more impressively and importantly, Day rescues from oblivion Hale's lover, the remarkable Harriet Freeman."
― Dean Grodzin, author of a comprehensive biography of Theodore Parker and former editor of the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History.
"Sara Day has broken new ground. We see Edward Hale in all his fullness, his multitude of activities almost day by day, the great influence he exerted over both the religious and science thought of his time, but in the intimate context of a sexual affair. And we see Hattie as a woman of the highest intelligence, who though caught up in an illicit relationship, nevertheless emerges as a leader in her own right. It is a compelling story told with consummate skill and wonderful sensitivity."
― David Halaas, American historian and author.