Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Women Reformers

 

Grace Alexander 1848 ~

Miss Alexander temperance reformer, was born in Winchester, New Hampshire, the 26th of October, 1848, and was the daughter of Edward and Lucy Catron Alexander, whose parents were among the early Puritan settlers. Miss Alexander taught school after graduating, and then accepted a position in the Winchester National Bank; finally became the cashier, and in 1881 when the incorporation of the Security Savings Bank took place, Miss Alexander was the first woman to be given the position of treasurer of a banking corporation. She is an earnest worker m Sunday schools, temperance societies and other religious organizations.

Fannie B. Ames 1840 ~

Mrs. Ames was born at Canandaigua the 14th of June, 1840, and is a noted industrial reformer. She was a student in Antioch College when Horace Mann was its president. Her first work was in the military hospitals during the war. She was married in 1863 to Reverend Charles G. Ames, a minister of Philadelphia, and there she took up the work of organized charity, becoming one of the state visitors to the public institutions of Pennsylvania. She was president of the New Century College, of Philadelphia, one of the most influential women's colleges of this country. Her lectures and writings have been full of force and most salutary in their effect. In 1891 she read a paper entitled "Care of Defective Children" before the National Council of Women and was appointed by Governor Russell factory Inspector in Massachusetts.

Rosa Miller Avery 1830 ~1894

Mrs. Avery was born in Madison, Ohio, the 31st of May, 1830. In September, 1853, she married Cyrus Avery, of Oberlin, Ohio. While living in Ashtabula, Ohio, she organized the first anti-slavery society of that time in that flection of the country, and though only two years before the war there was not a clergyman in the place who would give notice of this meeting. During the war she wrote constantly for the various papers and journals of that day on the onion and emancipation, being obliged to use a male signature in order to gain attention. Her pen-name signed to her later writings was ''Sue Smith." These were on social questions and things helpful to young people. After removing to Chicago she took up the work of social purity and equal suffrage and has written many able articles for the Chicago Press on these subjects.

Mary A. Livermore 1821 ~ 1905

Mrs. Livermore was one of the great characters and remarkable women developed by the few years prior to the Civil War, and her name is always associated with the great work of the Sanitary Commission of which she was the head and leader. She was born in Boston, December 19, 1821. Her people were Welsh and she was reared under the strictest Calvinistic faith. Mr. Rice, her father, was a man of strong character.

The family consisted of five children younger than herself, and even as a child she was imbued with a great religious faith. When but twelve years of age she became anxious to do something in order to earn money to contribute her part toward the support of the family and, as she said, not to have her father work so hard for all of them. She took up the trade of dressmaking, which at that time could not be considered one giving much financial return, as she was paid but thirty-seven cents a day. She was always eager to learn and hungered for an education. In this she met great encouragement from Doctor Neal, their minister, who assisted her to go to the Charlestown (Massachusetts) Female Seminary. While there one of the teachers died, during Mary's first term, and she was asked to fill the vacancy. She accepted at once, studying at night in order to fit herself for the position, and when but twenty years of age she had taught two years as a governess on a Virginia plantation and had returned to the family with the sum of six hundred dollars. At this time she was asked to take charge of the Duxbury High School, which she did. Her sister had died and the family were in great sorrow. Their minister at this time was Rev. D. P. Livermore who became interested in her reading and mental advancement and soon became fascinated with her personality, and when she was twenty-three they were married.

She became his assistant in the editing of the New Covenant, a religious paper published in Chicago, where they made their home. They had three children. In 1861 when the war broke out and the slavery question was one which everyone was discussing, Mrs. Livermore was deeply affected by the evidence of the case. She was in Boston when Mr. Lincoln's call for seventy-five thousand men was responded to and she was so affected by the hardships which she knew were facing them and the agony and distress of the women left at home, that she felt it her duty to see if there was not some work that she and the women of this country could do to help in this dreadful struggle.

A meeting for women was called in New York City, which resulted in the formation of an aid society, which was to send assistance to the soldiers and their families. They sent a delegate to Washington to inquire if there was not some work which the government would let the women undertake, but they were told they were not wanted. This only added fuel to the flame of their desire to undertake what they knew would be needed of the women, and soon the United States Sanitary Commission was organized for working in hospitals, looking after camps, and providing comfort for the soldiers. Branches were formed in ten large cities. The northwestern branch was put under the direction of Mrs. Livermore and Mrs. A. H. Hoge. Supplies began to come in to these loyal women from all parts of the country, and Mrs. Livermore was sent to Washington to talk with President Lincoln about the work, and while he told her that ''by law" no civilian, either man or woman, would be allowed to act officially, personally he was in favor of anything which would help the women to do their duty to their country. Mrs. Livermore's first work was after the battle of Fort Donelson. There were no hospitals. The poor wounded and sick had to be hauled in the rough Tennessee wagons, many dying before they reached St Louis. At the rear of the battlefields the sanitary commission took up its work. They kept the men supplied with hot coffee and soup; they furnished supplies for the sick; they helped care for those in the hospitals, nursing and working personally among them and many a poor fellow closed his eyes in death in Mrs. Livermore's arms. This commission expended about fifty million dollars, and the women raised the largest proportion of this. It is said each battle cost the commission about seventy-five thousand, and the battle of Gettysburg, one half million. Mrs. Livermore when not on the field, went about the country making appeals to the people for money and supplies to be sent to their own boys at the front.

At one time the need of money was so great that Mrs. Livermore decided to have a fair in Chicago. This was one of the famous charitable efforts during the war. Fourteen of Chicago's largest halls were hired, and the women assumed an indebtedness of ten thousand dollars. The City Council and Board of Trade of Chicago advised the abandonment of the project, but Mrs. Livermore and her loyal supporters went bravely on and every hall was filled with things to be sold, and supplies for the men. Instead of twenty-five thousand, which they hoped to raise, the women cleared one hundred thousand dollars. This was followed by others in Boston, New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. In New York one million dollars was raised, and in Philadelphia two hundred thousand more than that raised by New York. Mrs. Livermore was asked to make a tour of the hospitals and posts on the Mississippi River, and all officials and military officers were ready now, not only to lay down the bars of red tape and army regulation but glad to welcome this noble woman who had done so much and showed such remarkable executive ability and willingness to mid in lessening the suffering necessary.

Her labors cannot be justly estimated and the American people owe to her and to Clara Barton, of the Red Cross, a debt which cannot be cancelled. She was the author of several books, one ''What Shall We Do With Our Daughters,'' and "Reminiscences of the War." She died in 1905.


Lucretia Coffin Mott

Lucretia Coffin Mott 1793 ~ 1880

One of the most famous characters of American womanhood was born at Nantucket; January 3, 1793. Her father was a sea captain; her mother, one of those energetic, sensible, cheerful women of that day and time. As an illustration of the amusements of the children in that simple home, one writer says of Mrs. Coffin, Lucretia's mother, that it was her custom to say to her daughters: "Now after you have finished knitting twenty bouts you may go down in the cellar and pick out as many as you want of the smallest potatoes, the very smallest, and roast them in the ashes." The family moved to Boston when Lucretia was bat twelve years of age and she received her primary education at a public school, which her father felt was more in accordance with the democracy of our country. Later she attended the Friends' Boarding School, at Nine Partners, New York James Mott, her cousin, attended this same school and here their friendship began.

At fifteen, Lucretia was appointed an assistant teacher in this school, and she and Mr. Mott took up the study of French together. When she was eighteen and James Mott twenty-one, they were married and went to reside at the home of Lucretia's father in Philadelphia. Mr. Mott assisted Mr. Coffin in his business. The war of 1812 came on and destroyed Mr. Coffin's business, and the death of Captain Coffin soon thereafter brought great suffering upon the family. James Mott endeavored to do what he could for their support, but his business venture proved also a dismal failure and Lucretia Mott decided to open a school, which commenced with four pupils and soon increased to forty.

Mr. Mott's prospects also had improved and the family were placed in more cheerful and satisfactory surroundings. Lucretia Mott's family were Quakers and about the time she was twenty-five her natural religious tendency compelled her to give up work as a teacher, and she began the close study of the Bible. At this time she had four children, but the care of her house did not prevent her becoming a diligent student. Her husband, James Mott, was now prospering in a cotton business, and so luxuries had been added to the necessities of the home, which gave her more time for her work and she was enabled to go to the different Quaker meetings and speak.

She had always been deeply interested in the question of slavery and on December 4, 1833, when a convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of forming The American Anti-Slavery Society, Lucretia Mott was one of four women to brave criticism and social ostracism as friends of the then despised abolitionists. She spoke at this meeting with great earnestness and power and immediately after the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society was formed with Mrs. Mott chosen as its president. The women were so unused to the proper methods of organization and conduct of a woman's society that they were obliged to call a colored man to the chair to assist them. We all have read how these anti-slavery lecturers suffered. Some were even tarred and feathered. In New York and Philadelphia houses were burned, church windows broken, and threats were being made to destroy the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mott, but amidst all this frenzy Mrs. Mott remained placid and unruffled even when the mob threatened her with personal violence. In 1839 the World's Convention was called in London to discuss the slavery question, and among the delegates sent from this country were James and Lucretia Mott, Wendell Philips and his wife, with others. On their arrival in London they were amazed to find that no women were to be admitted as delegates. This seemed a death blow to Mrs. Mott's work, but the friendship of William Lloyd Garrison was here shown when he refused to take part in the convention and sat in the gallery with the women. Mrs. Mott was shown the greatest honors, entertained by the Duchess of Sutherland, Lady Byron, Carlyle expressing for her the greatest admiration. She had made frequent public speeches and addresses while in England and aroused the greatest interest in the work. Soon after their return to this country she spoke before the legislatures of New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania; called upon President Tyler and discussed the slavery question with him.

She was greatly interested in the question of suffrage for women, total abstinence, and national differences settled by arbitration instead of war, which after all these years is now so popular in our country. She felt greatly the difference in women's pay for the same work done by men. In 1848 Mrs. Mott, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and some other noble women of that time, called the 'first women's suffrage convention held in this country at Seneca Falls, New York. Her home became the rendezvous of the enthusiasts and earnest workers in these various lines, and black as well as white were welcome guests. She aided the escaped slaves and took up the cause of injustice freely. All this multitude of labor was carried on in addition to the duties of her home and to her children, which were always most conscientiously performed. In 1856 it became necessary to change their home from the city into the country, as Mrs. Mott had become much worn with care, and they established the residence, which was known far and wide as "Roadside."

In 1861 Mr. and Mrs. Mott celebrated their golden wedding, she being at that time seventy years of age but still active and interested in the cause of humanity. Lucretia Mott passed the latter years of her life near Philadelphia, where in 1880 she died.

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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