by Mrs. E. A. Parkhurst (1866, Connecticut College, Greer Music Library)
Susan McFarland Parkhurst, better known as Mrs. E. A. Parkhurst, was a prolific composer of parlor piano songs during the 1860s. Her most recognized composition, Father’s a Drunkard and Mother Is Dead, remained a popular temperance song of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union throughout the late nineteenth century.
This sentimental song about Little Bessie, laments the loss of her mother, fruitless hunts for work, and a lay-about father more interested in his next saloon drink than his daughter. Bessie’s story begins,
Out in the gloomy night, sadly I roam, I have no mother dear, no pleasant home. Nobody cares for me, no one would cry Even if poor little Bessie should die. Barefoot and tir’d, I’ve wander’d all day, Asking for work, but I’m too small they say. On the damp ground, I must now lay my head; Father’s a drunkard and Mother is dead!