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Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, 1830-1912
My Day: Reminiscences of a Long Life
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909.

Summary

Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, the daughter of Samuel Blair Rice, was born in Halifax County, Virginia in 1830. When she was three, Rice went to live with her aunt and uncle, Dr. and Mrs. Hargrave. She accompanied them to Charlottesville in 1839, where she was educated by tutors from the University of Virginia. In 1848, she married Roger Atkinson Pryor, a lawyer. In 1859, Roger was elected to the U.S. Congress as a representative from Virginia. He resigned his seat to join the Confederacy and was commissioned colonel of the Third Virginia Infantry. He was taken prisoner in 1864 and released the following year. After the war, the family moved to New York. Roger eventually earned a position on the state supreme court in 1894, and Sara was active in New York's social life. At the turn of the century, she began writing seriously and published several books, including romantic novels set in the antebellum South, two histories about colonial America, and two memoirs. She died in New York in 1912.

In her memoir My Day: Reminiscences of a Long Life (1909) Sara Pryor describes her childhood in antebellum Virginia and her social life in Charlottesville. After she married, Sara's life was affected largely by the positions her husband held. With the onset of the Civil War, Roger Pryor became an officer in the Confederate army, and Sara traveled with his company and assisted as a nurse. Later, when her husband became a courier for General Fitzhugh Lee, she returned to Petersburg, Virginia, where she stayed until the end of the war. She and her husband struggled to regain their financial stability immediately after the war, but succeeded only when they moved to New York City and Roger set up practice as a lawyer. There, Sara enjoyed socializing and even dined with Mark Twain and Grover Cleveland. Sara also was active in charity work and founded the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The narrative closes with her husband's election to the New York State Supreme Court.

Work Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harris Henderson

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