Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Cynthia Westover Alden 1858 ~ 1931


Mrs. Alden's grandfather was Alexander Campbell, founder of the Campbellites and her father, who was a noted geologist and expert miner, was a descendant of the Westovers of Virginia, who settled early in 1600 near the site where Richmond now stands. Her mother died when Mrs. Alden was so young that she has no memory of her, but from her earliest girlhood she accompanied her father on all his prospecting tours from Mexico to Canada. Naturally, from these early surroundings she became an expert shot and horsewoman, and she also acquired an intimate knowledge of birds and flowers, the habits of wild animals, and many other secrets of nature.

She was born in Iowa, in 1858, but her education was gained in whatever place she and her father happened to be, and was the result of his companionship as much as anything else, until she went to the State University of Colorado. After graduating there she took a four-year course in a commercial college, where she was considered a skilled mathematician, and after going to New York this practical side of her nature asserted itself, and she took the civil service examination for custom house inspector. She was promptly appointed, and with her usual force and energy began to learn French, German, and Italian. She acquired a general knowledge of languages which placed her, in an incredibly short time, on speaking terms with most of the immigrants of all nationalities coming to her shore.

When Commissioner Beattie came into the Street Cleaning Department of New York City he appointed her his private secretary, she being the only woman, up to that time, who had held a position by appointment in any of the city departments. During the illness of the Commissioner, for several weeks, she managed successfully the force of the entire department. Many Italians were on the force, and for the first time in their experience they could air their grievances at headquarters in their own language. As a further illustration of her active mind she invented a cart for carrying and dumping dirt, for which the Parisian Academy for Inventors conferred upon her the title of Membre d'Honneur with a diploma and a gold medal. She was joint author of a book entitled, "Manhattan, Historic and Artistic,'' which was so favorably received that the first edition was exhausted in ten days. She afterwards became a newspaper writer and secretary of the Women's Press Club of New York City. Her latest work is one of tender benevolence, having organized a Shut-in Society, by which bed-ridden and chair-ridden invalids correspond with one another through her medium, and try to make of their pitiful lives a Sunshine Society.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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