Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Mrs. Isaac L. Rice 1860 ~

 

Mrs. Isaac L. Rice, organizer of the Anti-noise Society, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 2, 1860. Is the daughter of Nathaniel and Annie Hyne-Barnett and is the wife of Isaac L. Rice, a prominent lawyer of New York City. On her mother's side, Mrs. Rice descended from Elias Hyneman, a native of Holland who came to this country in the eighteenth century. Mrs. Rice received a classical and musical education and also completed a course at the Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary in New York City, where she took her degree of M.D., in 1885, but soon after this she was married and abandoned the plan of practicing her profession.

Her home is one of elegance and distinction on the Riverside Drive, overlooking the Hudson River in the city of New York. The situation of her home brought to her attention as one of the sufferers the unnecessary noise of the river craft which rendered her days uncomfortable and her nights sleepless. The long distance signaling indulged in by tugs on their way up and down the river, their shrieking sirens, even when two miles away from the pier, became insufferable. At one time Mrs. Rice planned to sell her house and move to a quieter neighborhood, but learning that the inmates of the hospitals along the East River were sufferers from these same river noises and that no attempt had been made to obtain relief for them, she then determined to devote herself to this work. She had hitherto been unaccustomed to any public effort, having lived a quiet, domestic, home life. To convince the most skeptical of the extent of the nuisance, Mrs. Rice had careful records made on various nights of the number and duration of the whistle blasts, engaging for this purpose law students from the Columbia University, their reports being duly attested. From these it was learned that almost three thousand blasts could be noted in one locality during a period of eight hours, from ten p. m. to six a. m. She recognized the fact that this whistling was not called for either by statute or emergency requirements and that it could be dispensed with by having watchmen on their piers and by a system of like signals. She contended, furthermore, that this unnecessary whistling was not only a general public nuisance, but a grave menace to health; that it was also a detriment to navigation, because it covered or rendered difficult to distinguish, those signals which were necessary or demanded by law, from the unnecessary and that in justice to all they ought to be immediately suppressed. She gathered data from all of the municipal institutions exposed to noise and from every one came the plea for relief. All of this testimony was corroborated by the most eminent physicians in New York. She appealed to the municipal and state authorities, but in vain, as they contended that it was a local nuisance on a federal waterway, and therefore, the municipal authorities had no right to act Therefore, it was stated there was nobody in the United States who had the right to regulate the size of a boat whistle or to forbid useless handling of the same. After a year's constant effort Congressman Bennett succeeded in having a law passed through Congress, giving authority to the Board of Supervising Inspectors to punish unnecessary whistling.

Mrs. Rice then decided to organize a society composed of representative men in the various cities of the United States to abate one of the gravest ills of city life, unnecessary noise. She has succeeded in interesting in this work Archbishop Farley, Bishop Greer, the commissioner of health, the president of the Academy of Medicine, the president of Columbia University, the College of the city of New York and the New York University, the late Richard Watson Gilder and the late Mark Twain and William Dean Howells, and many other distinguished physicians, educators and public men. Europe has also taken up the work in the most encouraging manner. Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and England now have organizations, and the appeal of this society in many of the cities has brought about the granting of "quiet zones" around city hospitals. Mrs. Rice has organized also a children's society, in which Mark Twain took a great interest and was at the time of his death its president. The latest phase of Mrs. Rice's work is to form a national committee of the governors of all the states in order to make this movement country-wide. This work and great movement instigated by the persistency and perseverance of one woman entirely unaided is acknowledged to be one of the most revolutionizing reforms of the century, and Mrs. Rice's courageous perseverance and ceaseless efforts denote a character worthy of the widest emulation. Mrs. Rice is a refined, cultured woman, an accomplished musician and linguist and occupies a high social position in the city of New York. She is a woman of literary ability and has contributed to many of the leading magazines.

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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