Harby, Lee Cohen (1849–1918)

By: Nancy Baker Jones

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: February 21, 2017

Lee (or Leah) Cohen Harby, writer, was born on September 7, 1849, in Charleston, South Carolina, the fifth of six children of Marx E. and Armida (Harby) Cohen. She was educated at home by her father and a great-aunt. In 1869 she married a cousin, John de la Motta Harby, and the couple moved to Galveston, where Lee published an essay, "Christmas Before the War," in a local newspaper in 1873. By 1879 the Harbys had moved to Houston, where she read one of her poems to the state press association's annual meeting in 1880. In 1883 she published an essay, "On Women and Their Possibilities," advising Jewish women to become educated, self-reliant, and good conversationalists.

Lee Harby published a number of essays, including "The Old Stone Fort of Nacogdoches" in The American Magazine (1888); "The City of a Prince," about New Braunfels, in The Magazine of American History (1888); "Texan Types and Contrasts" in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1890); "The Earliest Texas," a paper first presented to the 1891 annual meeting of the American Historical Association, in the AHA Annual Report (1892); and "The Tejas: Their Habits, Government, and Superstitions," in the AHA Annual Report (1896). In 1903 her lyrics to "Flag Song of Texas" won a $100 award from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and became the official state flag song. She also wrote short stories and poetry and published them in a variety of newspapers and magazines such as Godey's Magazine, Neale's Monthly, Ladies' Home Journal, and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly Newspaper.

The Harbys moved from Texas to New York City and later back to Charleston. Lee Harby was a member of the Texas, New York, and South Carolina state historical associations as well as the AHA. She was a devoted Southerner and wrote poetry dedicated to Confederate veterans. She was also a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and writers' societies in London and New York City. She died in 1918.

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Galveston Daily News, June 18, 25, 1893. Library of Southern Literature (16 vols., Atlanta: Martin and Hoyt, 1909–13). Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman (Cincinnati: American Jewish Archives, 1981). Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman, 1654–1980 (New York: KTAV; Cincinnati: American Jewish Archives, 1981). Who Was Who in America (Chicago: Marquis, 1942-) (Vol. 4). Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, eds., A Woman of the Century (Buffalo, New York: Moulton, 1893).

  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Poets
  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Authors and Writers
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Nancy Baker Jones, “Harby, Lee Cohen,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harby-lee-cohen.

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February 1, 1995
February 21, 2017

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