When New York women won the right to vote in 1917, the national suffrage movement received a huge shot in the arm after the number of women voters doubled nationwide. The state’s 1917 victory can be traced, in part, to how the movement utilized the media, as well as benefitted from sustained and substantial grassroots organizing.
New York’s women organized the state from top to bottom for the vote, and the movement’s visibility and victory paid off when the tide turned nationally. Continue reading
At the end of February we asked for contributions of essays highlighting the role of women in New York State History in celebration of Women’s History Month. The response was excellent and The New York History Blog published 14 pieces, many from writers who have never contributed here before. Several of those related to the Adirondacks and were also published in the online journal Adirondack Almanack.
Over the course of the month thousands of people were introduced to the stories of New York women, but we shouldn’t stop here. I’m hoping readers will see this as an opportunity to bring forth their own stories about the role of women in the history of New York. Whatever aspect of history you are interested in, women played a role. Take the time to let us know about that history by contributing, not just in March, but throughout the year. Here’s how.
I’ve provided links to the stories and editorial commentary below: Continue reading
Today, the owner of 51 and 53 West 19th Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District in New York City will request the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to demolish two buildings and to construct a 14-story building in their place. Unfortunately, this is not an April’s Fool joke.
51 and 53 West 19th Street are five-story, residential buildings built in 1854 which were converted to commercial and/or manufacturing use in the 1920s. Such a history is very much in keeping with the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. In fact, the designation report lists “converted dwellings” as a building type in the district along with “residential construction”, “office buildings”, “store and loft buildings”, and “retail stores/department stores.” The report points out that after World War I, the shopping district had moved north and the area’s focus shifted to manufacturing. The 1916 zoning resolution had prohibited the construction of tall buildings on mid-block sites, and so instead the surviving residential buildings were converted. Converted dwellings are obviously a part of the fabric of the district, and these two nicely-designed buildings are good examples of this typology. Continue reading
At the height of her career in mid-1873, Kate Field was said to be “a more prominent journalist than Clemens [Mark Twain].” The Washington Post said she was “one of the foremost women of America,” and the Chicago Tribune called her the “most unique woman the present century has produced.” Yet in her tales of adventure in the Adirondacks, she called herself “a babe in the woods.”
She wrote, “To be a babe in the woods watched over by a human robin redbreast, is as near an approach to Eden before the fall as comes within the ken of woman.” Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This tribute to Lake George’s Winnie LaRose was written by the late Robert F. Hall and republished in his 1992 collection of essays, Pages from Adirondack History. He included this piece in the collection because, he wrote, “Winifred S. LaRose, who died on December 6, 1979, was the very embodiment of the environmentalist – a person whose love of her own native place and whose determination that its beauty would not be spoiled led her to the forefront of the environmental movement, not only in Lake George, but throughout New York State.”
Governor Hugh Carey proclaimed August 21, 1980, as Winnie LaRose Day, but any day would have served because that lady was busy every day of the year for the past 30 years in battling for the environment.
The governor chose that date because it coincided with a memorial service to the late Mrs. LaRose at the Fort George Battleground Park on the Beach Road at Lake George. This was an appropriate site for the service because Winnie, more than anyone else, was responsible for turning this swampy piece of ground into a park for people to enjoy. But it was done not only for people. As Victor Glider, a good friend and now retired as director of Environmental Conservation Field Services, told the gathering, Winnie insisted on clearing away the brush so that the statue of the martyred Father Jogues would have a good view of the lake where he served his mission in the 17th century. Continue reading
Any recognition of influential and famous American women should include Frances Perkins and rank her close to the top of such a list. Perkins was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of labor during his entire time in office, from 1933 to 1945, and the first woman cabinet member in our history.
Although she is largely unknown to most Americans, many historians credit Perkins as being the architect and driving force responsible for the key achievements of FDR’s New Deal program during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Continue reading
During the first decades of the twentieth century, as women first agitated for and then began exercising the right to vote, many became intrigued by the political process and the possibilities for influencing public opinion. One of the topics of great interest and debate concerned the best use of forest lands in the Adirondack Park, and whether to uphold the protections of Article VII, Section 7, the forever wild clause of the New York Constitution. Although little has been written on this subject, I am convinced that women contributed significantly to this debate.
My source of information is a collection of letters saved by John S. Apperson, Jr., an engineer at the General Electric Company in Schenectady. By 1920, he had earned a reputation as a leading preservationist, and was fighting a vigorous campaign to protect the islands at Lake George. His connection to women’s organizations apparently got its start there, as he became friends with Mary Loines, from Brooklyn, New York, who owned land in Northwest Bay. Continue reading
Research projects sometimes take unexpected, but fascinating, twists and turns. I had reason a few years ago to look into the case of a woman called Madame Sherri. She is mostly known for an unusual castle-like house built for her in a rural area of New Hampshire–its ruins are now popular with hikers and lovers of the odd and mysterious.
My investigation dragged me far from New Hampshire–to the world of cabaret reviews in New York City, the vaudeville circuit, and “soldier shows” (popular during World War I, with Irving Berlin’s “Yip Yip Yaphank” being the most well-known). And, for good measure, toss in a scandal involving sex and blackmail. Continue reading
Three women’s suffrage activists, four educators, two musicians, an artist, a psychiatrist, and a writer. These are just some of the amazing careers led by North Country Women of Courage who will be the subject of the Patricia Harrington Carson Brown Bag Lunch program tomorrow, Thursday, March 20th at noon at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.
Brown Bag Lunches are free and open to the public. Bring your own lunch and enjoy a beverage and dessert provided by SLCHA. Continue reading
Helen Redmond’s life was that of a star, playing Broadway and touring the country for five years in the role of prima donna, but she hadn’t forgotten her family. In 1900, Helen’s mother, three brothers, a sister, and a nephew shared a Manhattan address with her. All were employed except for mom (age 64 and retired) and the nephew, who was in school. It was a far cry from 20 years earlier, when the single mother of seven toiled as a hotel servant and cook in upstate Vermont.
Clinging to her roots, and to escape the constant limelight and media attention, Helen occasionally visited her hometown of Port Henry, sometimes spending entire summers there, accompanied by her mother. Continue reading
The Adirondack Region of New York State is known for not only for its scenic beauty, but also for the strength and stubbornness of its people. This is especially true of its women. The early years of its history featured women who were particularly strong and resilient.
Phebe Cary was not only a woman, she was a full-blooded Abenaki. The story goes that at age 13 she was sold off by her father to William Dalaba. It is unclear if she was sold off by her father or whether William just paid her father a dowry. What is clear is that after William left money with her father, she was sent off – against her will – with a new husband to the 1857 wilderness of Bakers Mills, N.Y. Continue reading
The lives of the two Mrs. Boissevains of New York seem inseparable and incomparable. Both graduated from Vassar College, supported women’s suffrage, endured ill health, believed in free love, and attained popular fame. It is not surprising that they chose the same husband: the charming, witty, handsome Eugen Boissevain. Inez Milholland wed him on July 14, 1913, and after Inez died, he took Edna St. Vincent Millay as his bride on July 18, 1923.
Already known for “making suffrage fashionable,” Inez Milholland shot to fame as the herald atop a white horse at the head of the March 3, 1913, suffrage procession in Washington, DC. It was a shock to the world when a few months later the New York Times announced that Inez had met Hollander F. Eugene Boissevain aboard an ocean liner and married him in London. Continue reading
A Protestant revival movement, the Second Great Awakening (SGA), began in the 1790s in this country and lasted until approximately 1850. Consequences of this movement that its millions of adherents could not imagine are evident today and will continue to shape gender relations.
Most historians consider the SGA a reaction against the prevailing Enlightenment values of rationalism, skepticism, and secularism that were paramount in the aftermath of the First Great Awakening that occurred between 1731 and 1755. Continue reading
On March 13, 1906, at forty minutes past midnight, Susan B. Anthony died at the age of 86 in her bed on the second floor of the house at 17 Madison Street in Rochester, her home of 40 years.
At her request, much of the ceremonial mourning of the day was not observed: no shades were drawn, no black crepe hung. Only a simple wreath of violets was placed on the front door. Continue reading
Show biz can be heady stuff, and some things never change. Quirky stories and celebrities’ habits have long been the subject of great attention. Helen Redmond was certainly not immune to it, and as always, the attention was a press agent’s dream. Nothing is or was ever too silly for stars to indulge in.
In 1899, the latest fad was to walk one’s pet in public, using a harness (some even included a bit). In Helen’s case, the harnesses were “made of the finest silver chains, with tiny bells jingling at every movement.” She hired a boy to care for her three famous pets.
And why would any of that seem eccentric or excessive? Because the pets were turtles. Continue reading
On Thursday, March 13, enjoy the ambiance of the historic Rice House while you sip tea and celebrate the world of Jane Austen. Guest speaker, David Shapard will share fascinating facts about the clothing, architecture, landscapes, homes, and gardens in Austen’s novels, and will answer your most pressing questions. This event will take place at 6PM and is free and open to the public as part of the Institute’s Evenings at the Institute initiative.
Shapard has a PhD in European History from UC Berkley, and is the author of five books on Jane Austen, including The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, The Annotated Emma, and the recently published The Annotated Northanger Abbey. He has taught at several colleges and his specialty is the eighteenth century. He lives in upstate New York. Continue reading
The story of Charlotte Friend is a true New York story. Friend was a noted microbiologist who made important contributions to the study of cancer. She was an advocate for women’s rights and worked hard to improve the position of women in science.
Charlotte Friend was born March 11, 1921 in New York City, a city she loved. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in 1944 and then entered the Navy, where she was assigned to help direct a hematology laboratory in California. She left the Navy in 1946 and began graduate work in microbiology at Yale University. By the time she received her doctorate in 1950, Dr. Friend already had a position in the laboratory of Dr. Alice Moore at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York City. She stayed in New York for the rest of her life. Continue reading
As the national debate over the extension of chattel slavery into the territories heated up in February and March of 1860, women’s rights advocates were storming the capitol in Albany demanding an end to what they felt was another form of slavery—wage slavery for married women.
Under the law in effect until March 20, 1860 in New York State, married women did not have legal control over any money they earned working for themselves or others. All of it belonged to their husbands! As Lucy Stone explained it to the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1853, “unless by cunning she can keep her earnings away from him, he can and does take them to pay the drunkard’s bill, and to squander upon abandoned women.”
According to women’s rights supporters, there were tens of thousands of these kinds of ne’er-do-well husbands, most of whom were cigar-smoking drunkards and/or womanizers, who paid their bills with money they took from their wives’ bank accounts without their permission. Continue reading
Celebrate Women’s History Month on March 21 and 22 with a program of stories and music by acclaimed Adirondack singer-songwriter Peggy Lynn and author/performer Sandra Weber.
On Friday, March 21 at 7:00 pm Peggy and Sandra perform at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall. On Saturday, March 22 at 6:30 pm at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts there is a reception to benefit the Adirondack History Center Museum followed by a performance at 7:30 pm. The Wild Spirits: Songs and Stories of Remarkable Adirondack Women program highlights the contributions and journeys of famous (and not so famous) women of the Adirondacks. Continue reading
Help this New York History Blog spread the word about the role of women in New York State history by contributing an essay for publication.
Essays are sought that focus on individual women, women’s groups, or relevant historic sites located in New York State. Historiography and commentaries on public history issues related to women’s history, are all welcome.
Essays should be about 750-1,200 words. Send your submissions via e-mail to editor John Warren. Include a short (three line) biography of yourself.