The Poet with the Annoying Husband

Did you know that April is National Poetry month? It’s a time to celebrate the great poets and poems that have left an impression on our minds. Did you also know that the woman who was once known as the “Poet Laureate” of Dutchess County, tried to have her husband removed from her farm for being an annoying squatter? (Seriously, we can’t make this stuff up) She wrote poems about America’s victory in World War I and about her very famous neighbors, the Roosevelt family, particularly President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Emma Victoria Pitkin Marshall was certainly a poet and a character worth remembering. 

She was born Emma Victoria Pitkin in Brooklyn in 1866. She moved to Dutchess County in 1896 and purchased a farm in East Park with her uncle, Mr. Albert Simpson. They called their new homestead ‘Pinehenge’ and together they worked from the ground up on harvesting fresh vegetables and producing homemade cheese which was sold at the markets in Poughkeepsie. When she wasn’t working hard in the fields or milking cows, she somehow found time to write poetry. She produced her first pamphlet of poems in 1912 and was inspired to write and release more poetry work during World War I (see poem below).

Historical events that occurred in her lifetime seemed to inspire her poetry, like war, deaths of famous people, and political campaigns. One event in her life that she chose not to write about was a rather cumbersome experience with marriage. Emma had not been in a hurry to get married, she was 50 when she met and married Culver Marshall. Based on a newspaper article from 1919, Marshall was not pleased with the prenuptial agreement which stated that the farm and all of its profits belonged to Emma. He believed he wasn’t getting any money from the harvests and that this marriage was quite unfair, so he began sleeping out in the barn. Emma’s attorneys came to the conclusion that Mr. Marshall was “not mentally sound” and she declared him to be nothing more than a “squatter.” A judge dismissed the case and eventually Emma and Culver parted ways.

Besides farming and writing, Emma was a strong supporter of the Democratic Party in Dutchess County and her farmhouse was the regular meeting place of the League of Women Voters in Hyde Park. She was also a member of the Roosevelt Home Club, a club organized to “uphold and advance the interest of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Emma died at her farm on January 24th, 1946. In her obituary in the Poughkeepsie New Yorker, there was no mention of an annoying husband, only her devotion to poetry and politics.                

“Beacon Lights”  By Emma Victoria Pitkin – 1918  

Beacon Lights of History,

Kindles once again, 

Blazing on the mountain top,

Calling unto men;

To arise in armor bright,

Shield of Truth and Sword of Right, 

Gallantly to wage the fight, 

Liberty defend. 


Beacon Lights of History, 

Pointed to with pride, 

Where our fathers fought and bled, 

Where our fathers died;

Kindle once again the zeal,

Tha all patriots must feel, 

When beneath the tyrant’s heel, 

Weaker nations cried. 


Beacon Lights of History, 

All the world aflame, 

As they blaze in times agone. 

Blazing forth again, 

Calling to the colors bright,

Every Nation for the right, 

And the world entire unite, 

Liberty proclaim.

And the Beacon Lights are blazing, 

Where Democracies exist, 

To the world entire proclaiming, 

That the reign of mail-ed frist 

Is about to end forever, 

End in ignominious shame, 

For the tyrant and the robber,

Who has played a losing game, 

And the crushed, down-trodden people, 

Who have suffered much and long, 

Shall be lifted from their thralldom, 

To the place where they belong.


God made man in his own image,

Not to be a fettered slave, 

And the tyrant who oppressed him, 

Soon will fill and unknown grave; 

On the field of Armageddon, 

Will the triumph be, 

And the Beacon fires are lighted 

Calling us to Victory!  

Poughkeepsie Journal – 21 Jun 1919, 23 July 1923, 6 Aug 1941, 3 Feb 1942, 25 Jan 1946

emmavictoria-Life1940 – Photo of Emma Victoria Pitkin at her home in Hyde Park from Life Magazine, 1940.
PJ-25Jan1946 – An obituary for Emma Victoria Pitkin in the Poughkeepsie New Yorker, 25 Jan 1946.
PJ-23Jul1921 – A headline from the Poughkeepsie Journal concerning Emma’s husband. 23 Jul 1921.