Sara George Bagley
Sara George Bagley was a key figure in the history of American working women. Born in Candia, New Hampshire, she worked in the Lowell, Massachusetts, textile mills and organized in both Lowell and in Manchester, New Hampshire. Bagley was perhaps the most visible and articulate of the female labor leaders of the period, agitating, petitioning and speaking for safe working conditions and decent wages for women textile workers. She led the ‘Ten Hour Movement’ in Massachusetts, which sought to reduce women’s working day from 13 and 14 hours to 10. In the 1840s, she was part of the leadership of the New England Workingmen’s Association and other male-dominated groups. Nothing is yet known of Sara Bagley’s life after 1848, including the date of her death.
Amy Cheney Beach
Amy Cheney Beach was America’s first internationally celebrated female composer. Born in Henniker, New Hampshire, Beach’s work was performed by America’s most prestigious orchestras and singers. Beach composed in several genres. Her known work includes a Mass, a symphony, a piano concerto, chamber ensembles, piano and music for single voice and mixed chorus; she composed more than thirty works for women’s chorus. After being out of favor for a time, Beach’s work is being performed once again.
Bernice Gertrude Blake Perry
Bernice Blake, the daughter of Blake’s Creamery owner, was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. A professional photographer, Blake was also the first woman in the state to earn her pilot’s license, which she received in 1928. Blake left 45,000 photographic negatives of New Hampshire industries, schools, the MacDowell Colony and the Cathedral of the Pines. She left $4.5 million for scholarships to benefit students in the cities of Milford, Hollis and Wilton.
Laura Bridgman was the first known blind American to gain a significant education. Born to a farm family in Hanover, New Hampshire, Laura contracted scarlet fever at age two. The illness killed her siblings and left her deaf, blind, mute, and without a sense of taste or smell. In 1837, Laura entered the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts, directed by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Howe had recently met Julia Brace, a deaf-blind resident at the American School for the Deaf, who communicated using tactile sign. Howe developed a plan to teach Bridgman through the same tactile sign method. The method helped Laura obtain a broad education. She lived and taught at the Perkins Institute until her death.
Hilda Johnson Brungot
Hilda Johnson Brungot was a Berlin, New Hampshire, native who became dean of women state legislators. She was a forty-four-year-old mother of 6 children when she first went to Concord as a legislator. Reelected 18 times, she served 41 years before retiring in 1975. Brungot’s portrait hangs in Legislative Hall at the State Capitol, only the third woman to be so honored.
Canterbury Shaker Village and Enfield Shaker Village
The religious society we know as Shakers, is formally the United Society of Believers. Emigrating from England in 1774, this was one of the first organizations in the United States to give women formal leadership positions in its power structure, believing in strict equality of the sexes. American Shakerism was founded by Mother Ann Lee. She sent missionaries into New Hampshire, resulting in the religious communities of Canterbury and Enfield, which provided leadership in business, technological progress and innovation, and social reform in New Hampshire.
Willa Cather is one of America’s foremost authors and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1922. Cather first came to New Hampshire in the summer of 1917, when she spent a summer with her partner Edith Lewis in Jaffrey. The two stayed at the Shattuck Inn near Mount Modnadnock, where Cather wrote much of her acclaimed novel, My Antonia. Cather and Lewis returned to Jaffrey for the next twenty summers. Although they did not return after the hurricane of 1938, they are buried, at Cather’s request, in Hilltop Cemetery in Jaffrey at the foot of Mount Modnadnock.
Hannah Davis was a successful entrepreneur and one of the first documented female inventors. Born and raised in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, the unmarried Davis was forced to support herself after the death of her parents. Davis was an experienced woodworker, a craft she had learned from her father. She began a cottage business designing bandboxes covered in popular wallpaper patterns. Controlling the entire process, Davis selected and supervised the cutting of the lumber for the boxes and invented a foot-powered machine to cut the strips of wood needed for their construction. Davis’s successful business and marketing plan became a model in her time for women entrepreneurs.
Mary Baker Eddy
Mary Baker Eddy is founder of the Christian Science Movement and author of its foundational text, Science and Health (1875). Born in Bow, New Hampshire, Eddy was frequently ill and developed an early interest in healing and spirituality. She established the First Church of Christ, Scientists in 1866, a religion based on the tenets of healing through faith and which incorporated equality of the sexes. In 1908, at the age of 87, Eddy launched The Christian Science Monitor, which has since become an award-winning publication. Eddy was the first New Hampshire woman to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Exeter Hospital Training School
(1906 – 1935)
Just over a hundred years ago, Exeter Cottage Hospital in Exeter, New Hampshire, opened a nurses’ training school, graduating the first class of five nurses three years later in 1909. Over the course of its existence, the school sent 90 young women, skilled in anatomy and physiology, obstetrics, dietetics, materia medica (pharmacology), fever nursing and, in the early years of the program, reading aloud and massage, to serve both at their hospital and across the United States and Canada. Students of the program worked 12-hour shifts in the hospital in addition to their studies. Graduates served in both world wars and were indispensible through the 1918 influenza epidemic. A commemorative panel within Exeter Hospital honors the nursing school and Alumni Drive, although spelled incorrectly, is named for the graduates of Exeter Hospital Training School (of Nursing).
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale
A native of Newport, New Hampshire, Hale is best known for her literary work. She wrote a successful novel, Northwood, after being widowed with five children to support. Eventually, Hale became editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, which was the arbiter of taste and fashion for American women for forty years. As an editor, Hale defied the convention of the day by publishing and copyrighting original work. Though conservative in her ideology, Hale agitated for higher education for women (in order to make them better wives and mothers), and for better medical care and higher wages for women. Hale is also known for successfully lobbying President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an annual holiday and for writing Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Mildred Helen McAfee Horton
Mildred Helen McAfee Horton was born in Missouri and spent her later years in Randolph, New Hampshire. President of Wellesley College in Massachusetts at the start of World War II, Horton took a leave of absence to head the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES), a force of over 80,000 women under the United States Navy. Among her numerous postwar awards, Horton received the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal, the first woman to do so. Horton was president of the University of New Hampshire Board of Trustees from 1963-1974; Horton Hall is named in her honor. Horton died in Randolph at age 94.
Abby Hutchinson was born into a musical family in Milford, New Hampshire. She joined her three brothers in the Hutchinson Family Singers, who went on to become among the best known American entertainers during the 1840s. Abby was a major attraction because of her youth and voice. The singing group turned away from their staple minstrel tunes to offer original songs, embracing causes such as abolition, temperance and woman’s suffrage. The Hutchinsons would perform into the 1880s, but Abby stopped performing regularly after 1849 when she married Ludlow Patton and moved to New York City. Although Hutchinson died in New York, she is buried in Milford.
Lotte Johanna Alexandra Jacobi
Lotte Jacobi was born into a family of photographers in Germany. She worked in the family business there photographing artists such as Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Jacobi fled Germany in 1935, settling in the United States. She photographed many notable people of the time including Eleanor Roosevelt, W.E.B. Du Bois, J.D. Salinger, Robert Frost and Albert Einstein. Jacobi’s photograph of Einstein is considered the iconic portrait of the scientist. In 1955, Jacobi moved her family to Deering, New Hampshire, where she lived and worked until her death.
Sister Madeleine of Jesus
Sister Madeleine of Jesus was born Laura Beatrice Getty in Danielson, Connecticut. She became a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary at an early age, teaching at schools run by the order. Sr. Madeleine received a Ph.D. from Catholic University in 1931. Two years after receiving her degree, Sr. Madeleine founded Rivier College (now Rivier University) in New Hampshire (originally in Hudson, and located to Nashua in 1941), to make it easier for religious women and daughters of French Canadian immigrants to obtain a higher education. Starting with a class of four in 1931, Rivier University is now a coeducational institution graduating students from the associate to the doctoral level and remains committed to its mission of ‘transforming hearts and minds to serve the world.’ Rivier is the only New Hampshire institution of higher learning founded by a woman.
Jane Kenyon, a major American poet, was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received her M.A. degree from the University of Michigan in 1972, the same year she married poet Donald Hall, who taught there. She moved with Hall to Eagle Pond Farm, his ancestral home, in Wilmot, New Hampshire. There, she published four collections of critically acclaimed poems and translated the poetry of Anna Akhmatova. Kenyon was New Hampshire’s poet laureate when she died of leukemia in 1995.
Ona Marie Judge Staines
Ona Marie Judge Staines was the enslaved body servant of Martha Washington in what was then the United States capitol, Philadelphia. In 1796, Judge fled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There, she met and married a mariner, Jack Staines; they made their home in the adjacent rural town of Greenland with their three daughters. Jack was presumed to have died at sea when he did not return from a voyage. Each of the Staines’ children also predeceased Ona. She continued to live in the town with the freed family of a man formerly owned by a prominent New Hampshire merchant. Because President Washington had endorsed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1791, Ona Judge remained a fugitive for the rest of her life. The house itself no longer stands but her unmarked gravesite remains undisturbed on the property where she had chosen to live.
Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe
Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, known as Christa, was NASA’s first Teacher in Space. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, McAuliffe grew up nearby in Framingham. After college and graduate school, McAuliffe taught social studies in New Hampshire at Concord High School. A gifted teacher, her commitment to teaching contributed to her selection for the space program. During the training, McAuliffe’s enthusiasm captivated many Americans and greatly increased interest in the mission. The spaceship Challenger, however, exploded on January 28, 1986, just seconds after liftoff, killing all aboard. MacAuliffe was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004. The Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, now the McAuliffe/Shepard Discovery Center, was named in her honor.
Marian Griswold Nevins MacDowell
Marian Griswold Nevins MacDowell , born in New York City, was a talented pianist who through her tireless efforts fulfilled her husband’s dream of creating an artists’ colony. In 1880, she went to Europe where she met and studied with Edward MacDowell, an American pianist and composer. She and Edward married in 1884. In 1896, with a small inheritance, Marian purchased a farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire, as a summer residence for them. In 1907 at Edward’s urging, they began a residential institution for artists there; Edward died one year later. To raise funds for the colony’s support and endowment Marion lectured and resumed her career as a pianist. Marian helped encourage the formation of musical clubs that provided support for the MacDowell Colony, and in turn the clubs brought music to their local communities. MacDowell’s support of both male and female artists in all disciplines made her an essential figure in the arts in the United States. Today, the MacDowell colony is a renowned incubator for talented artists of all disciplines.
Grace Metalious was born Marie Grace de Repentigny to French-Canadian parents in Manchester, New Hampshire. After graduating from Manchester Central High School, she married George Metalious in 1943. The couple lived in Durham while her husband attended the University of New Hampshire; they had three children. In 1956, while living in Gilmanton with her family, Grace published Peyton Place, about small-town life in New Hampshire. The novel, considered scandalous for its explicit sexuality, generated enormous sales as well as notoriety for the author. Metalious wrote several subsequent novels, none as successful as Peyton Place. She died of alcoholism in 1964.
Marilla Ricker was born in New Durham, New Hampshire. She married a Dover man and was left a wealthy widow in her twenties. She read law in Washington, D.C. and was admitted to the bar in 1882. As a lawyer, she pleaded several important test cases in Washington and became known as the “prisoners’ friend” for her legal and financial help to those who were incarcerated and prostitutes. Ricker spent part of each year in Dover and, after attending a conference of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, tried every year to vote in the State. In 1910 she attempted to run for governor of New Hampshire. A lifelong atheist, she wrote several books on free thought.
Molly Stark was born Elizabeth Page in 1737 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Her family moved to Dunbarton, New Hampshire, in about 1755. She married Revolutionary War General John Stark in 1758. Molly gained notoriety through General Stark’s battle cry at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont: “These are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours or this night Molly Stark sleeps as a widow.” Molly was also a nurse for her husband’s troops during a small pox epidemic and opened the Stark home as a hospital. Statues, parks and trails in Vermont and New Hampshire are named for her. The Molly Stark cannon “Old Molly” is in New Boston, New Hampshire.
Celia Laighton Thaxter
Celia Laighton Thaxter was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and lived most of her life on the Isles of Shoals. She was a poet and essayist of the nineteenth-century ‘Aesthetic Movement.’ At 16, the writer married Levi Thaxter and moved to the mainland. While living in Newtonville, Massachusetts, she wrote “Land Locked,” a poem expressing her longing for the ocean; the poem’s success brought her into Boston literary society. Unhappy in her marriage and away from her island, Thaxter spent summers in her house on Appledore Island where she wrote, gardened and painted, while hosting noted artists and writers who vacationed there. Thaxter’s work is linked to what we now call ecofeminism; her four books of poetry and numerous essays often consider the connections between gender and the natural world.
Emma Coolidge Weston
Emma Coolidge Weston was an advocate for the blind, founding the New Hampshire Association for the Blind in Hancock, New Hampshire, in 1912. At about one year old, Weston became blind as a result of a childhood disease. She moved to Hancock with her family in 1872. Weston is believed to be the first blind person in New England to graduate from an advanced level school for the sighted – Framingham Normal School in Massachusetts. She taught at Perkins Institute for the Blind for nine years and matriculated for a year at Wellesley College. Weston returned to Hancock where she taught music and advocated for education for the blind throughout her life.
Image Rights: Samuel P. Hayes Research Library, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA
Dinah [Chase] Whipple
Dinah [Chase] Whipple ran the Ladies Charitable African Society School for African children in Portsmouth, the only school known to exist in the state of New Hampshire for former slaves or their children. Dinah was emancipated by her owner, Rev. Stephen Chase of New Castle, when she reached her 21st birthday. On that same day, she married Prince Whipple, the still-enslaved personal servant of Revolutionary War General William Whipple. Prince died in 1797, leaving Dinah and several young children living in the house they shared with another Black family in back of what is known today as the Moffatt-Ladd House. Dinah operated the school in her home from around 1807 until at least 1835. While little survives in her own words, public documents reveal much about Dinah Whipple’s accomplishments as a citizen.
Armenia Aldrich White
Armenia Aldrich White was born in Concord, New Hampshire, of Quaker parentage. She married Nathaniel White and joined him in the anti-slavery movement. After the Civil War, White became a leader of the New Hampshire Women’s Suffrage Movement and was the state association’s first president. White was also active in the temperance movement. Armenia White was known to be alive in 1885 but the exact date of her death is not yet known.
Harriet Wilson was born Harriet E. Adams in Milford, New Hampshire, to a White mother and a Black father. She is the author Our Nig (1859), believed to be the first novel by an African-American woman to be published in the United States. Wilson’s autobiographical novel describes the life of an abused mulatto child and her forced servitude at the hands of northerners, thus opening up questions of slavery in the North. Harriet married Thomas Wilson in 1851 and gave birth to a son, George, in 1852. Poverty stricken after her husband’s disappearance, Wilson wrote Our Nig to support herself and her child. George, however, died the next year and Wilson herself disappeared from record books. Researchers uncovered her life as a spiritualist and medium in Massachusetts, which lasted another thirty years. Harriet Wilson died in Quincy, Massachusetts, and is buried there in Mount Wollaston Cemetery.