Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Emily Warren Roebling 1843 ~ 1903

 


Emily Warren Roebling

No American woman is entitled to a higher place in the role of honor than Emily Warren as a sister, daughter, wife, mother and gifted woman. At a very early age the noble traits of her character were manifested by her efforts to be helpful in the home of her childhood, especially in her devotion to her brother, Governor Kemble Warren, which continued during his eventful life.

She was born September 23, 1843, at Cold Spring on the Hudson and was one of the eleven children of Sylvanus Warren. Her girlhood was not unlike that of many of the girls of that day. She was educated at the then noted Convent of the Visitation, Georgetown, D. C, where she graduated. The Civil War having broken out in the meantime and her brother Governor, having risen to the distinction of major-general, and he being in command of the Fifth Army Corps of the army of the Potomac, then in Virginia, Emily was impatient, after her graduation, to visit him in camp. Obtaining permission, she hastened to present herself at headquarters and one can readily imagine the sensation which the appearance of this beautiful accomplished, enthusiastic, patriotic young woman created. She immediately interested herself in the work offered about her; she cheered the despondent, wrote letters for the sick and carried sunshine into the hospitals and camps.

Colonel Washington A. Roebling, the skilled young engineer, was then a member of General Warren's staff, and when she returned home she was engaged to be married to this rising young engineer. They were married January 18, 1865, and after the close of the war. Colonel Roebling took his bride to Mulhausen, Thuringen, Germany, his birthplace. Here he was to study European construction and submarine foundations as his father, Colonel John A. Roebling, was at that time working out the problems connected with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. While at Mulhausen, the only son of Colonel and Mrs. Roebling, John A. Roebling, was born. On their return to this country, Colonel Roebling associated himself with his father in this great engineering work, and in 1869 his father was killed while making the first survey for this work.

Then the responsibility of carrying out the plan for this gigantic undertaking fell upon Colonel Roebling and he, through his constant and untiring devotion, ultimately sank tinder the strain, and became a bed-ridden invalid. At this critical moment, Emily Warren Roebling proved her rare ability, dauntless courage, keen sagacity and true wifely devotion. It was she who stood between her husband and failure. With matchless diplomacy she smoothed out all friction between the municipal authorities, rival engineers, and ambitious men, in addition to ministering to her husband's comfort and relieving his suffering. She filled his mind with hope and kept him hourly informed of the progress of the work, gained by sitting near his bedside, telescope in hand, faithfully reporting to him every step in the progress of the work. So correct were her observations, from their home on Brooklin Heights that he was able to write out instructions and plan for the work of the assisting engineers and laboring force. Armed with these drawings, the faithful wife could be seen daily wending her way to the engineers and workmen, explaining to them explicitly and intelligently Colonel Roebling's directions. Few women have ever had higher tribute paid them than was given to Mrs. Roebling; when Honorable Abram S. Hewitt, the orator of the day, on the occasion of the opening of the bridge, in eloquent terms connected the name of Mrs. Roebling with that of Colonel Roebling as deserving equal share in his unparalleled achievement.

That the name of her revered brother, Governor Kemble Warren, should not be forgotten, she caused to be erected a magnificent bronze statue to his memory on Little Round Top, on the Battlefield of Gettysburg. After Colonel and Mrs. Roebling's removal to Trenton, New Jersey, where she spent the last years of her life, she busied herself in assisting Colonel Roebling in arranging a wonderful collection of books, curios, gems and mineralogical specimens and in interesting herself in social, political, philanthropic and patriotic work. She traveled extensively and was presented, in 1896, to Queen Victoria in London and subsequently, at court, in Russia. On her return from this trip, which she made in company with Mrs. John A. Logan, she gave a most interesting illustrated lecture on, "What an American Woman Saw at the Coronation of Nicholas the Second." The proceeds of this she gave to charity.

In 1898 she was among the most active members of the Relief Society which did such noble work during the Spanish War, giving her money, time and strength to the hospital work of this association. She was a graduate from the Law School of the New York University in 1899, the subject of her graduating essay being ''The Wife's Disabilities." She was chosen as the essayist of her class and had previously won the prize for the best essay written by any member of her class. She was active in the work of the Daughters of the American Revolution, at one time vice-president-general of that organization, and one of the most important and able members of this great woman's organization. She represented the women of New Jersey on the Board of Lady Managers at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Mrs. Roebling was the first vice-president of the Society of Colonial Dames, and a member of the Colonial Daughters of the seventeenth century, Holland Dames of America, the Huguenot Society, honorary official of the George Washington Memorial Association, a member of the Woman's Branch of the New Jersey Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, the Virginia Society for the Preservation of Historical objects and places, the Revolutionary Memorial Society of New Jersey, the Woman's Law Class of the New York University, an officer of the New York State Federation of Clubs and at one time president of the Georgetown Visitation Academy Alumnae Association. Her literary attainments were of the highest order. Her articles which appeared in the Brooklyn papers in 1882 and 1883, in defense of Colonel Roebling's methods in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, were so able that they completely routed his enemies, men who had conspired to defraud him of the glory she had helped him to win in the successful completion of that structure.

Her biography of Colonel Roebling, contributions to the press on philanthropy and economic questions, "The Journal of Reverend Silas Constant," her able defense of her brother. General Warren; reports and lectures written by her, all prove the delicacy of her taste, purity of her mind, earnestness of thought, indefatigable energy, inborn patriotism and unwavering loyalty to her husband and family. Her judgment of men and measures was singularly unerring for a woman; her ambitions were laudable and did credit to her intelligence and noble character. Her death in 193 was an irreparable loss to her family, the community, the poor and society. In her brief life she accomplished more than has been done by many men.

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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