WWHP Newsletter Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2004
WWHP member Sharon Smith Viles at the Gough House Celebration, October 18, 2003.
Providence Walking Tour
Save the Date!
Saturday, June 12, 9 am to 5 pm
Join the WWHP on a Women's History Walking Tour of Benefit St. and downtown Providence (led by Rhode Island Historical Society guides), featuring women associated with Worcester his-tory. There will be time for lunch and a chance to visit the RISD Museum, John Brown House, and Riverwalk, or shop at Providence Place. (Travel round trip by bus.)
Advance reservations required: $40 Call Linda Miller (508-893-8964) or Nancy Avila (508-755-4353)
Celebrate women's history month with us!
Learning About Local Women's History
An exhibit sponsored by the Worcester Women's History Project
March 1-31 at Worcester Public Library
Frances Perkins Branch (Greendale), 470 West Boylston Street
Tea With a Twist
Sponsored by the Worcester Women's History Project and Worcester Historical Museum
Saturday, March 18, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Salisbury Mansion, 40 Highland Street
Eleanor Roosevelt once observed: "A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong it is until it's in hot water." There were no teabags in 19th-century Worcester, of course, but there were plenty of strong women! Some Worcester suffragists even cited the Boston Tea Party when seeking the vote, pointedly alluding to "No taxation without representation."
You're invited to Salisbury Mansion for tea with an unexpected twist. Although Mrs. Salisbury was not personally involved with social reform movements, other Worcester women advocated major changes--from abolishing slavery to establishing women's rights--during her lifetime. Come to Mrs. Salisbury's tea party to learn about their important contributions!
$10 for WWHP or WHM members; $12 for non-members; reservations recommended
Women in Print: Readings From Worcester County Authors
Sponsored by the Worcester Women's History Project and Worcester Historical Museum
Thursday, March 25, from 5:30 to 7 pm
Worcester Historical Museum, 30 Elm Street
Join us in honoring a rich tradition of female storytellers, poets, and memoir-ists from Worcester County. This event features historian Thomas Doughton reading from Bethany Veney's slave narrative, critic Laura Menides presen-ting Elizabeth Bishop's poetry, and contemporary novelist Adria Bernardi and poet Maria Flores reading their own works. Please bring one of your favorite book passages, short pieces, or poems by local women writers to share! The evening includes a tour of the exhibit "Merrifield, 23 Trowbridge Road, 1856-2002," led by museum curator Holly V. Izard. Trowbridge Road was home to three generations of Worcester authors: Harriette Merrifield Forbes, her daughter Esther Forbes, and Esther's niece, Peggy Erskine.
Adults $5. Under 18 and WWHP and WHM members admitted free.
"Yours For Humanity --Abby" Stirs Audiences
- "Thought provoking!"
- "WOW ...incredible passion!"
- "Truly inspiring!"
"I feel the agony of the poor slave mother who wails with broken-hearted grief, her young child ripped from her arms as the mother is sold to another master on a plantation far away," cries Abby Kelley Foster, as portrayed by Lynne McKenney Lydick in "Yours for Humanity--Abby." Today's audience understands the slave mother's plight more readily than Foster's audiences did in Indiana 150 years ago.
At that time, settlers in northeastern Indiana wondered why an ordinary Massachusetts woman was willing to leave her own little daughter for months at a time in order to disturb their newly established community. Some members of Foster's original audiences saw her as a freak, a wild woman, or a source of entertainment at a time when there was no radio or television. Many, however, were moved by her skills as an orator and fundraiser, as well as her remarkable ability to spread the message of human equality among thousands of strangers who came to hear her. "If things are going to change, it is up to you," Foster tells her audience in this powerful one-woman show.
"Yours for Humanity--Abby" received raves when it premiered on Saturday, January 17, to a standing-room only crowd at the Worcester Public Library; the next day, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette included a glowing review and a photograph of Lynne McKenney Lydick's standing ovation. Carolyn Howe and Karen Board Moran wrote the play; James David Moran, Lynne McKenney Lydick, and director Douglas Ingalls provided dramatic assistance, while Claire Berkowitz and Karen Board Moran created a curriculum packet to accompany performances. Fleet Boston Financial Foundation and the Worcester Cultural Commission, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, provided funding.
Urge your school or organization to book "Yours for Humanity--Abby." Performances cost $350 (or $600 for two the same day), and are accompanied by an informative curriculum packet and resource binder. To book a performance, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-767-1852.
Soprano Lisa Cohaine, the Uppity Women Singers, the Emmanuel Baptist Church Choir, Lynne McKenney Lydick (as Abby Kelley Foster), Karen Board Moran, and Thomas Lydick performed at WWHP's October event.
WWHP Ends Support of Abby Kelley Foster Letters Project
Linda B. Rosenlund, President, Worcester Women's History Project
In January, we regretfully in-formed Project Director Carolyn Howe and supporters of the Abby Kelley Foster Letters Project (AKFLP) that the Worcester Women's History Project would no longer pursue the AKFLP and specifically not seek funding to publish a scholarly print edition of Foster's correspondence.
This decision was based on WWHP's financial and person-nel limitations. Grant funding for projects such as the AKFLP is very competitive and requires many hours of preparation. It became increasingly clear that pursuing federal grants to publish a scholarly work was too ambi-tious for an all-volunteer organization like the WWHP.
However, we remain com-mitted to advancing Foster's legacy in other ways, such as our new one-woman play, "Yours for Humanity--Abby."
Get With the Program
WWHP seeks volunteers for a new Resources and Marketing Committee to promote the WWHP and coordinate programming such as "In Her Foot-steps" (the Heritage Trail virtual tour); "Yours for Humanity--Abby"; and demonstrations of 1850s women's dress. To volunteer, or to request pre-sentations of these and other programs (including the Uppity Women Singers, Rich Sisters, or "Reclaiming Our Heritage" exhibit), call 508-867-1852 or email email@example.com.
Crossing Paths with Pioneering Worcester County Women
During a vacation in Wisconsin, I investigated Abby Kelley Foster's experiences in the "West." Abby chose to leave her Lynn, MA, classroom to educate the public on the American Anti-Slavery Society lecture circuit. Other female teachers headed West, too. Indeed, I crossed paths with eleven such women from Worcester County in Polly Welts Kaufman's Women Teachers on the Frontier (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984).
Like Abby, these teachers wished to affect the larger world. They were hired by the National Board of Popular Education, which Catherine Beecher had founded in 1847 to connect a surplus of single female teachers in the East with an estimated two million children out West. Some took a two-year teaching position for economic reasons--others, for adventure. The recommended minimum salary was $150 per year with room and board, but many earned less. Most of these women were around 25 years old, came from large families, and had limited marriage options.
After teaching seven seasons in Vermont, Sarah A. Ballard (1818-1855?) of Worcester sought "a wider field of usefulness" out West. She and I crossed paths en route to my family reunion in Rosendale, WI, where in 1850 she became the first teacher in a log school built for $125--with students aged 3 to 23. (Emigrants from New England and the Mid-Atlantic bought up fertile Western land at lenient government terms following the financial panic of 1837, and towns like Rosendale grew quickly.) Ballard showed her independent spirit by refusing to be boarded around: "I found it very unpleasant...one week I would board where I would have a comfortable room; the next week my room would be so open that the snow would blow in.... But the most unpleasant part was being obliged to walk through the snow and water." To keep their teacher, the school committee found her a place near the school. She attended common school conventions, trained local women to teach, and helped establish Sabbath schools. In her next position--in Grand Marsh, WI--she met Charles E. Thurston, superintendent of the Sabbath school there. They married in 1852 and planned an addition to their home so she could have her own school: "I love to teach; for I feel that I am more useful than I could be to live a more retired life." Sadly, Sarah Ballard Thurston died only a few years later.
Teachers needed to adjust to rough conditions and country ways. Mount Holyoke Seminary graduate Martha C. Eddy (1817-?), of Auburn, replaced Sarah Shedd of Pepperell, who had died of tuberculosis in 1852 after catching cold only seven weeks into her position in Sugar Creek, WI (about 20 miles from my great great grandparents' homestead). Another Mount Holyoke graduate, Agnes S. Goulding (1830-1907), of Phillipston, "preferred her country school-house" in Evansville, IN, 1851-1853, to the seminary in town, saying that students "learn just as fast in a log schoolhouse as a brick one." She later worked in Massachusetts women's reform schools and died in Springfield. Princeton native Ellen P. Lee (1832-?), who boarded at a family's one-room log cabin in Hamilton City, IN, reported in 1851: "I am entirely deprived of sympathy and good society. My log-school house and my own secret place in the grove...are particularly dear to me." Despite these feelings, she taught in Indiana until 1855. A school trustee said Lee had "revolu-tionized one neighborhood" by convincing 30 young men to sign a pledge not to use tobacco. She returned East to marry Charles W. Livingston of Worcester in 1856.
There were other challenges, too. West Newton Normal School (now Framingham State) trained Jennette Pitkin (1831-1920), of Winchendon, to teach in Boonville, MO from 1852 to 1853, but did not prepare her for a lost trunk on her journey there. It arrived six months later-- after she had made new winter clothes. She later married Joseph W. Stone of Winchendon. Mary Augusta Roper (1833-1909), of Templeton, took a position in Mill Point, MI, in 1852. She was caught in a typical battle over her frontier community's moral values: some did not want another pious teacher from the National Board of Popular Education, while others wanted a Universalist in principle. Although Roper success-fully taught some 40 students, she asked to be relieved of her duties because she was "completely worn out in mind and body.... No effort was left untried to injure my school." Roper returned East to marry Worcester restaurant and storeowner Lyman J. Taft, bore at least one son, and died a widow.
Other pioneering Worcester County teachers included Elizabeth Cutler (1818-?) of Shrewsbury; Mary Newell of North Wilbraham; Lucy W. Pierce (1835-1906) of Royalston; Martha Wheelock (?-1892) of Warren; and Abby Wood (1825-?) of Leominster. Teaching, virtually the only acceptable female profession at the time, gave them a signifi-cant degree of autonomy. As Kaufman explains, "By acting to take control over their own lives, these women exhibited an independence of spirit" and improved the lives of citizens across America.
The Legacy Of Lucy Stone And Abby Kelley Foster
Preserving Lucy Stone's Home Site
The Trustees of Reservations announced last year that they will soon provide visitors to Stone's birthplace--on Coy's Hill in West Brookfield, MA--with opportunities to learn about her and the struggle for women's rights. The Trustees recently purchased 367 acres on Coy's Hill in order to preserve the home site in its natural setting.
The Lucy Stone Home Site will teach future generations about this remarkable woman and her role in 19th-century social reform movements. It will also provide visitors with a point of entry to the surrounding land-scape: Coy's Hill is part of a growing greenbelt of over 1000 acres and varying wildlife habitats, including the nearby Rock House Reservation and Johnson Farm. Plans call for interpretive signs, trails, a parking area, and a part-time ranger. However, the Trustees must raise $140,000 in order to prepare and open the property to the public. Funds are needed to conduct research, plan-ning, and site improvements; to record and safeguard the site's his-toric value; and to create a modest endowment to maintain the site.
To help preserve Coy's Hill, send a donation to the Lucy Stone Home Site Protection Project, Box 473, West Brookfield, MA 01585, or call 978/921-1944, x1861. For more information on Coy's Hill, Stone's home, or the Trustees of Reservations, visit www.thetrustees.org/pages/1613_lucy_stone_home_site.cfm.
Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania
April 20, 1846
My very dear Lucy,
Well, I have written it. It was the natural prompting of my heart to call you, thus familiarly, "My very dear Lucy" and I know you will under-stand me. It is so seldom that we meet in our wanderings, one little wild flower that grows naturally; that is not twisted, and warped, and bedusted, and smoked, and crushed, and muddied, that when I see here and there one flower of a human heart in its freshness--one that has laid itself open to the invigorating influence of fresh air and sunshine, of dewdrops and quietly falling shower, of tempest and northeast storms even, aye and of the hurricane too; that as my eye lights on it, a fresh fountain of joy opens in my bosom and I feel the happier and more hopeful for a twelve month.
Now my dear friend, I don't know as you are this being I have believed you to be but if you are you are a miracle. How is it that, in the mire and under the murky sky of a heathenist religion, falsely called Christianity, you have been able to penetrate the clouds as thick darkness assumed you, and discover what is "pure and undefiled religion"? But I can hardly believe myself when I recollect your words and the simplicity with which you uttered them.
But I forget myself. You will forgive me my frankness. I have said what I have said because botanically you are a wild flower and not a mon-strosity [...] By the way, why cannot you be induced to lecture next winter? One woman is worth two men any day, in a moral movement [...]
A. K. Foster
This letter--in which Abby Kelley Foster invites Lucy Stone to lecture for the American Anti-Slavery Society--seems relevant to preserving Stone's home site within its natural setting. Foster calls Stone a wildflower, not "a monstrosity" (a term applied to both women because of their controversial views and willingness to speak in public). WWHP member Carolyn Howe transcribed the original letter in the National Woman's Suffrage Association Collection, Library of Congress.
Lucy Stone and Coy's Hill
Lucy Stone was an American original. Born in 1818 on a hillside farm in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, she would rise from humble, rural roots to join the ranks of great Americans. As an abolitionist orator, her silvery voice held crowds of three and four thousand spellbound. Stone's lasting fame, however, came as the "morning star" of the movement for women's rights. As a lobbyist, political organizer, orator, strategist, and publicist, she was without peer. For almost fifty years--from 1847 to 1893--Stone rode at the fore of the movement for increased civil rights for women and blacks.
Although she would rise to sit among the powerful elites of the century, Lucy Stone never lost sight of her rural roots. As often as she could, she would return to the family farmhouse on Coy's Hill. There amidst birch and maple groves, or on the pathways that led to the crest of the hill overlooking the valley, or sitting beside Coy's Brook, Lucy Stone would renew the singularity of purpose that emboldened her to strike out on paths where no women had gone before.
Almost forty years after Lucy Stone's death in 1893, a New York Tribune writer would ask how it was "that this particular country girl...left the ranks, to ride almost alone at the head of the shock troops" of the movement for women's rights? The story of that remarkable ascent is linked to the land that nurtured her.
Andrea Moore Kerr, a WWHP member, is the author of Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992). This article is excerpted from her essay on Stone's birthplace, available at the Trustees of Reservations web site.
New Biography Puts Lucy Stone In Her Place
WWHP member Joelle Million has just published a new biography of Stone: Woman's Voice, Woman's Place: Lucy Stone and the Birth of the Woman's Rights Movement (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003). By analyzing the antebellum woman's rights campaign in terms of Stone's pioneering efforts, Million's book challenges other accounts of the American women's movement. While Abby Kelley Foster and Stephen Foster were lecturing on human rights in Michigan and Indiana, Lucy Stone was already giving speeches about woman's rights in Kentucky: "Amazed by the en-thusiastic reception of her ideas, Stone mused that Kentucky might give 'political and legal equality to its white women sooner even than Massachusetts'" (p. 160). Woman's Voice, Woman's Place chronicles not only her public side, but her personal battles as well.
"Working with the Fosters in the neighborhood of West Brookfield, Stone again experienced the hostility they seemed to accept as normal. At Warren, rowdies tried to silence Abby with the usual pranks of sprinkling pepper on the floor, showering the audience with corn and beans, and overturning benches. Then someone fired a gun and the bullet barely missed Abby. When she appealed to the audience for protection, no one moved.... With such experiences, it is no wonder Stone developed a strong preference for lecturing alone."
- Joelle Million, Woman's Voice, Woman's Place (p. 97)
Women's Book Club
Visit www.letrs.indiana.edu/web/w/wright2/ to read Martha Damon Tyler's 1855 novel A Book without a Title; or, Thrilling Events in the Life of Mira Dana, based on her experiences as a leader of the 1836 Lowell strike. This is the first known represen-tation of a labor strike in American fiction. Born in Lancaster, MA, Tyler wrote her novel in Worcester. An article on Tyler by Worcester native Judith A. Ranta appears in the spring 2003 issue of Legacy.
Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard of Ware, MA, started a mid-19th century campaign--known at the time as "Mrs. Packard's Liberty bills"--to require more stringent criteria for admission to lunatic asylums. After her husband admitted her, Packard escaped and began writing novels about her experiences to prevent other men from committing their wives without a court hearing. For moving accounts by Packard and other female patients, read Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945, edited by Jeffrey L. Geller and Maxine Harris (New York: Doubleday, 1994).
These texts on Worcester's role in such social reform movements are available from the WWHP: Worcester and the Struggle for Equality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, a trail guide; Angels & Infidels, a play about the 1850 convention; and Window on the Past: Revisiting the First National Woman's Rights Convention, published by WWHP member Karen Board Moran.
Uppities Honor UU Women
The Uppity Women Singers performed at the Westborough Unitarian Universalist Church on January 18, 2004, as part of a service honoring "19th Century UU Women Re-formers" such as Lucy Stone, Clara Barton, and Dorothea Dix.
WWHP member Mary Collins is available for public perfor-mances as "Margru" (Sarah Margru Kinson Greene), who was one of four children on the schooner Amistad. Collins debuted the role on October 25, 2003, at an Amistad Day celebration at Fleet Pavilion in Boston, and has enacted it in other venues since then. An historical interpreter and performer, she also appears in the "Rich Sisters," an affiliated WWHP program which show-cases one of Worcester's most important 19th-century African-American families.
The WWWHP is proud to unveil our new logo (seen on the title and return address of the Newsletter), thanks to the work of Steering Committee member Ellen Laverdure. It was designed by David Paradis of Paradis Communications.
Worcester Women's Work
The "Reclaiming Our Heritage" exhibit, designed by Carolyn Howe, is on display at the new Women at Work Museum (35 County Street, Attleboro, MA). The Museum also features the Women's Educational and Industrial Union Portrait Ex-hibit, which includes images of several contemporary Wor-cester women: Zoila Feldman, Gloria Hall, Honee Hess, Sandra Kurtinitis, Annette Rafferty, Cathy Kahn Recht, and Marilyn Fratturcelli from Lunenberg. For more information, call 508-222-4430.
Visit www.cjonline.com/stories/081003/mid_chautauqua.shtml to discover how one 1850 Woman's Rights Convention attendee, Clarina Howard Nichols, is being revived at the Kansas Humanities Council Chautauqua on Bleeding Kansas. Nichols felt the territory's stance on slavery was pivotal in 1854 and lobbied for women's rights at the state consti-tutional convention in 1859.
The Temperate Season
On a beautiful day last October, five costumed reenactors re-presented the WWHP during a celebration at the Gough House in West Boylston, MA. John B. Gough was a famous 19th-century temperance speaker and social reformer whose historic home, "Hillside," is now being restored.
Do you have an announcement for "Hot Flashes"? Please contact Susan Elizabeth Sweeney at 508-756-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Search Of...
- Carolyn Lawes sent information about Eliza Bancroft Davis. Even before there was an organized woman's movement, Davis was an entrepreneur and shrewd observer of local and national politics in early 19th-century Worcester. She was the daughter of Rev. Aaron Bancroft and ran her own dressmaking shop; later, she married John Davis, who served as Massachusetts governor and senator.
- On October 3, 2004, Karen Board Moran will hold a "Get Out the Vote" Rally to celebrate women's historic contributions as part of the tri-centennial celebration for Sutton, Massachusetts. The rally will specifically honor Lucy Waters Phelps, a member of the Worcester Equal Franchise Club and the first Sutton woman to register to vote. Does anyone have information about the Worcester Equal Franchise Club?
A reader from Boylston, MA, seeks information on the Ladies' Fadettes, an all-female musical group from a century ago that originated in Boston, existed for at least a decade, toured Europe, and performed for royalty. Her great-aunts, Lucy Bigelow and Mara Bigelow, played violin and bass viol for the Ladies' Fadettes.
According to the Readers' Companion to U.S. Women's History (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), the Boston Fadettes or Boston Fadette Lady Orchestra was one of the first and most famous all-women orchestras. It was founded by conductor Caroline B. Nichols in 1884 and flourished until after World War I, performing classical music as well as lighter fare. Many of the musicians later became the first female instru-mentalists in other orchestras. In her self-published History of Women in Music (1983), Barbara Thurber explains that Nichols established the Fadettes with help from her brother-in-law, George H. Chickering (of the Chickering piano manufacturing company), and took the name from George Sand's 1884 novel La Petite Fadette. The Source Guide for Research on Women Instrumentalists c.1840-1960, an online database, turns up over two dozen harpists, horn players, trombonists, cornetists, trumpeters, clarinetists, oboists, flautists, tuba players, and percussionists whose careers began with the Fadettes, but no mention of Lucy or Mara Bigelow. However, the orchestra apparently featured several sets of sisters. Can anyone provide more information about the Ladies' Fadettes for our faithful reader?
Remembering Robert Cormier
We were saddened to learn of the death (October 30, 2003) of Robert Cormier, director of Social Sciences at Shrewsbury High School, who sup-ported the WWHP from the beginning, created a database of participants in the 1850 convention, and helped to design related teaching materials. He will be sorely missed.
At the WWHP Annual Meeting on September 25, 2003, members and guests listen as newly elected Vice President Linda Miller gives outgoing President Dorista Goldsberry a "P.A.C.E. Award" for the "Positive Attitude" and "Consistent Effort" with which she pursued the WWHP's vision, mission, and goals.
Costumed reenactors Nancy Austin and Kris Allen represent the Worcester Women's History Project at the Gough House, Boylston, MA, on October 18, 2003.
WWHP Newsletter News
In our Fall 2004 issue:
- The "Worcester Woman": a new group of voters to rival NASCAR dads?
- "Suffragette City": Worcester, the 19th amendment to the constitution, and the 2004 elections
Karen Board Moran, who inaugurated the "In Search Of..." column and contributes other pieces to each issue, has been named Associate Editor. Thanks to Mary Collins, Diane Eickhoff, Jeffrey Geller, Carolyn Howe, Carolyn Lawes, Linda Miller, Karen Board Moran, and Judy Ranta for sending various news items our way! Thanks, too, to Linda Rosenlund for the photographs in this issue.
It's hard to believe, but we will be ten years old on May 12, 2004! Founded in 1994 and incorporated in 1995, we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary year from May 2004 through October 2005.
As you read this, we are still glowing with excitement. The response of the standing-room-only audience at the premiere of our new play, "Yours for Humanity -Abby," held at Worcester Public Library on January 17, was overwhelming! "Very well done," "Heartwrenching," "Very compelling," and "Bravo!" were only a few of the comments we received. Lynne McKenney Lydick was brilliant as Abby.
Tremendous enthusiasm is building not only for the new play, but also for the many resources we are able to offer. We recently redesigned our logo and are in the process of developing new marketing materials.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us in so many different ways. And welcome to those of you who are now ready to become involved in our work!