National Poetry Month: Mary S.B. Dana

Native daughter, Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer Dana Shindler (a.k.a. Mary S. B. Dana) is the perfect person to transition from National Women's History in March into National Poetry Month in April.

Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer was born February 15, 1810 in Beaufort to Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer and Mary Stanley neé Bunce Palmer. In 1813, her father moved the family to Charleston, SC where he served as the minister of the Circular Church until 1835. She was educated in the private school of Dr. Ramsey and his daughters in Charleston and in various seminaries for young ladies in Connecticut and New Jersey. In 1835, she married Charles E. Dana of New York. They had one son. Both her husband and her son died at their home in Bloomington, Iowa during August 1839.

She returned to the home of her parents in Charleston as a childless widow and poured out her grief about her string of recent losses through writing The Parted Family, and Other Poems (1842). Both her parents died in 1847. Her religious poems reflect on themes of comfort in the struggles of life and death. Recognition of her poetry, often infused with religious sentiment, began during this decade. Later she set some of her poems to music, often favoring folk tunes for the melody.

For an excerpt of her most famous poem, “The Passing of the Rod,” a religious poem based on the text of the book of Ezekial, 20:7 in the Bible, please visit Connections at

She married an Episcopalian minister, Robert Doyne Shindler at some point between 1848 and 1851 (sources vary as to the precise date of the nuptials). They had one child, a son, Robert Conrad Shindler, who was born in Shelbyville, Kentucky in April 1852. They were living in Tennessee by 1859. After the Civil War, the family relocated to Nacogdoches and San Augustine, Texas. Rev. Shindler died in Nacogdoches in 1874; she died 9 years later on February 8, 1883. Among her famous descendants are the former US Senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and actress Mary Tyler Moore.

Her works include: The Southern Harp, The Northern Harp, and The Western Harp in which her religious poems are set to music; several novels; and, religious and spiritualism essays. In our collection we have copies of her Letters addressed to relatives and friends,: chiefly in reply to arguments in support of the doctrine of the Trinity; The Southern harp: consisting of original sacred and moral songs, adapted to the most popular melodies: for the piano-forte and guitar; The parted family, and other poems: an offering to the afflicted, and a tribute of love to departed friends; A southerner among the spirits: a record of investigations into the spiritual phenomena; and one of her novels, Forecastle Tom or, The landsman turned sailor. We used sources found in our vertical file, Shindler, Mary Stanley Bunce Palmer Dana, (1810 - 1883) to write this entry.