Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Harriette M. Plunkett 1826 ~

 

Harriette M. Plunkett was a pioneer in the work of sanitary reform in the United States. She was born Harriette Merrick Hodge, February 6 1826 in Hadley, Massachusetts, and this town, though a community of farmers, had the unusual advantage of an endowed school, "Hopkins Academy," which afforded exceptional opportunities to the daughters of the town, and there Miss Hodge received her early education.

Her great interest in sanitary matters did not develop until after she became the wife of Honorable Thomas F. Plunkett, who in 1869 had a very important share in the establishment of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, the first state board established in this country. Mrs. Plunkett became convinced that if the women of the country would inform themselves what sanitary reform was needed in housing and living, and see that it was put in practice, there would be a great saving and lengthening of lives, and making lives more effective and happy during their continuance.

To promote that cause she wrote many newspaper articles, and in 1885 published a valuable book, "Women, Plumbers, and Doctors," containing practical directions for securing a healthful home and though interrupted in her work by the necessity of reading the studies of a college course to her son, who had become totally blind, this accomplished, she at once resumed her pen and returned to subjects of sanitation, though at the same time producing other articles, educational, aesthetic, and political, for various magazines and journals. One article, on the increasing longevity of the human race, entitled, "Our Grandfathers Died Too Soon," in the Popular Science Monthly, attracted wide attention.

Her great interest in the prevention and healing of diseases also brought her before the public, and she is probably most widely known in connection with the establishment and growth of a cottage hospital in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, called the House of Mercy, started in 1874, and of which she was the president. It was the first one of its class to be supported by contributions from all religious denominations in the country, Mrs. Plunkett always spoke of her own work with extreme modesty, remarking at one time, that she merely belonged, "to the great army of working optimists."

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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