Author and Daughter of James Fenimore Cooper
Susan Fenimore Cooper was a writer and amateur naturalist, who is best known for Rural Hours, her nature diary of Cooperstown, New York. She also wrote a novel, short stories, children’s stories, and dozens of magazine articles on a wide variety of subjects.
Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper was born on April 17, 1813 in Scarsdale, New York, the daughter of the novelist James Fenimore Cooper and Susan De Lancey Cooper. She was their second child, and the eldest to survive childhood. In the summer of 1813 the Coopers traveled to Cooperstown, New York, the settlement founded by James’ father, Judge William Cooper. Along the way they stopped to rest and Susan’s older sister Elizabeth ate some over-ripe strawberries and she died soon after from food poisoning.
Entertainer and Philanthropist
Lotta Crabtree began her career as a singer, dancer and actress at a very young age. She would go on to become one of the wealthiest and most beloved American entertainers of the late 19th century. From her beginnings as a 6-year-old until her retirement at the age of 45, she was called The Nation’s Darling.
Image: Lotta Crabtree in 1868
She was born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree on November 7, 1847 in New York City to British immigrants Mary Ann Livesey Crabtree, an upholsterer, and John Ashworth Crabtree, a book seller. Her father left for San Francisco in 1851, seeking his fortune in the California Gold Rush.
A year later Mary Ann sold the book shop, and she and Lotta took a ship to the Isthmus of Panama in those pre-canal days and crossed by land before picking up a second ship for the journey to Northern California, where they would meet John at the town of Grass Valley. John, however, was not at the docks to meet them.
First Lady for Father-in-Law Martin Van Buren
Dolley Madison introduced Angelica Singleton to President Martin Van Buren’s son and then guided her through the intricacies of Washington entertaining and politics when she became the official White House hostess during Van Buren’s term.
Image: Angelica Van Buren’s portrait was painted by Henry Inman, while White House hostess for her father-in-law, whose bust is seen in the background. Today it hangs in the White House above the fireplace mantle in what has become known as the Red Room.
She was born Sarah Angelica Singleton on February 13, 1818 at Wedgefield, South Carolina, the daughter of prosperous cotton planters Richard and Rebecca Travis Coles Singleton. Angelica was raised at the family plantation Home Place in Sumter County, South Carolina. The Singletons believed strongly in the need to provide their daughters with an excellent education, beyond the traditional domestic arts.
Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Activist
The first woman to address a state legislature (Massachusetts in 1836), Angelina Grimke fearlessly traveled across New York and New England, speaking out against slavery at a time when women were scarcely seen and never heard in the public arena. In order to lecture about this sensitive issue she had to first fight for her right, as a woman, to participate in the abolionist movement.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Grimke grew to detest the institution of slavery at an early age. Unable to influence her family to free their slaves, Angelina joined her older sister Sarah in Philadelphia, where they became Quakers, and soon thereafter began to fight for emancipation.
Abolitionist and Feminist in New York
In her own day, Amy Post was well known as a radical Quaker abolitionist and feminist. In the late 1960s, feminists began searching for heroines, women whose lives could provide guidance and inspiration to a new generation of female activists. Many women who were first rediscovered as models of strength, self-reliance and ingenuity were residents of western New York, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Blackwell.
Yet what made this region of New York, and Rochester in particular, a seedbed of female achievement was not only the few nationally renowned women who made a home there but also the dozens of women who day by day struggled to lead exemplary lives and to improve the lives of those around them. Amy Post was one of those women.
A Pioneer in Women’s Education
American author and educator, Catherine Beecher believed that a woman’s role as educator and moral guide for her family was the basis of a well-ordered society. While she might have balked at being called a feminist (she did not support suffrage), her new theories about a woman’s place contributed to a growing feminist attitude that a woman did not have to be weak and passive, but could be a strong and important member of her community.
Catherine Beecher (also spelled Catharine) was born September 6, 1800 in East Hampton, New York to the prominent Beecher family, who greatly influenced American culture and politics during the late nineteenth century. Catherine was the eldest of 13 children born to Presbyterian minister Dr. Lyman Beecher and Roxana Foote Beecher, eight of whom survived infancy. Her parents had a strong influence on the values she held as an adult.
Abolitionist and Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe published more than 30 books, but it was her best-selling antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that brought her worldwide fame and a very secure place in history. She also wrote biographies, children’s text books, and advice books on homemaking and childrearing. The informal style of her writing enabled her to reach audiences that more scholarly works would not.
Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut to the Rev. Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Foote Beecher; the sixth of 11 children. She was called Hattie by her brothers and sisters. Roxanna Beecher died when Harriet was only five years old, and her oldest sister Catharine became an important maternal influence.
Frances Sargent Osgood was one of the most popular women writers and poets of the mid-nineteenth century. Though some critics berated her writing as overly sentimental, Osgood achieved a wide readership and her fame was based on her success as an author, not merely for her connection to Edgar Allan Poe.
Image: Frances Sargent Osgood and Edgar Allan Poe (painting of Poe by Fanny’s husband)
Frances Sargent Locke was born on June 18, 1811 in Boston, Massachusetts to Joseph Locke, a wealthy merchant, and his second wife Mary. Fanny, as she was known, spent her early years in Hingham, Massachusetts, and probably received her formal education at home by private tutors, but she also attended the Boston Lyceum for Young Ladies in 1828. Her poetry was first published when she was fourteen in a children’s magazine called Juvenile Miscellany by editor Lydia Maria Child.
Washington Irving’s One and Only Love
Though she died very young, Matilda Hoffman made such a deep impression on the young American author Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) that he mourned her passing for the rest of his life. Decades later, the mere mention of her name left him speechless.
Sarah Matilda Hoffman was born in 1791, daughter of Josiah Ogden and Mary Colden Hoffman. Matilda, as she was known, grew up in Manhattan and Albany, New York. Her mother died when she was six years old and her father married Maria Fenno five years later and began a second family. Maria was only ten years older than Matilda.
Educator and Author of Science Textbooks
Almira Phelps was a 19th century educator and author who published several popular science textbooks, the most famous of which was Familiar Lectures on Botany (1829). Although it was received with condescension by male scientists, this book introduced a new style of science book for young students and influenced women to study the natural sciences. She wrote textbooks in all major fields of science except astronomy.
Almira Hart was born on July 15, 1793, in Berlin, Connecticut, the youngest of seventeen children. She grew up in a family of intellectuals who prized independent thinking, and received much of her education at home, where her siblings debated literature and politics. She was also an avid reader and spent some time studying in local district schools.