Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sophonisba (Sophie) Preston Breckinridge – April 1, 1866 – July 30, 1948 - Part 1

Author, lawyer, social activist/reformer and educational innovator are just some of the accomplishments we can attribute to Sophie. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1888, Sophie taught high school math in Washington, D.C., before returning home to Kentucky to study law. Sophie was the first Kentucky woman to pass the bar. She was also the first to receive a Ph.D. but the sad truth is she left Kentucky because no one would hire a female attorney.

She became a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Her thesis was on "The Administration of Justice in Kentucky," and her Ph.D. in Political Science came in 1903 with her dissertation, "Legal Tender; A Study in English and American Monetary History." As a professor and assistant dean of women, Sophie helped develop the University of Chicago’s graduate program of social services administration. 

In the next blog will look at some of the other accomplishments attributed to Sophie.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lydia Barrington Darragh  1728 – 12/28/1789

Some weeks ago I wrote about Mary Molly Brant who spied on the colonists for the British. Lydia is the other side of the coin. She spied for the Colonial Army
Lydia, a Quaker, risked both execution as a traitor and loss of her right to be a Quaker by taking information to the Colonial  Army about an impending attack she overhead in her British occupied home..
The story accepted by some historians is that she wrote down what she heard and then asked permission to go to the mill outside the British lines to get flour. While out, she passed on the information to Elias Boudinot, which he talks about in his diary. Other historians still don’t give her credit for her actions.
After the failed attack made it clear that Washington knew the British were coming, Lydia was questioned by the British but the officers that questioned her believe her when she said she was asleep.
Lydia, born in Dublin, Ireland, married her tutor, William Darragh. They immigrated to Philadelphia, where there was a large Quaker community. In Philadelphia, she acted as a midwife and nurse. As a Quaker, Lydia was committed to pacifism but her eldest son enlisted.
Both Lydia and her son lost their membership in the Quaker society. After her husband died in 1783, Lydia ran a store until her death.
This quote attributed to Lydia: “Though we consider thee as a public enemy, we regard thee as a private friend. While we detest the cause thee fights for, we wish well to thy personal interest and safety,” makes me wonder who she is addressing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering 1670 – 3/9/1729

 Henrietta, the first female recognized as a pastel artist, supported her family by drawing portraits with colored chalk on paper.

Born in France of Huguenot parents who immigrated to London, Henrietta married Robert Dering, fifth son of Sir Edward Dering, Baronet and with him went to Ireland. During her stay in Ireland, Henrietta began to draw pastels depicting some of her powerful relatives.

When Dering died, leaving Henrietta with two daughters, she married clergyman Gideon Johnston. Shortly thereafter, The Church of England sent Johnson with his family, to serve as commissary of the Church of England in North and South Carolina. Their time in the colonies was extremely difficult because his salary rarely came and he was often ill. In 1709, Johnston wrote “Were it not for the assistance my wife gives by drawing pictures (which can last but a little time in a place so ill peopled), I should not be able to live.” Johnston died in 1716.

Not much is known of her later life in the colonies except she must have gone to New York City because four of her portraits of family members from that city are dated 1725. She is buried in Charleston, South Carolina with Johnston.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Barbara Ruckle Heck 1734 – 8/17/1804

Barbara is known as the Mother of American Methodism. The Manhattan Borough Presidentin honored Barbara for founding what is now the oldest Methodist congregation in the United States at the old John Street United Methodist church.

Barbara was born in Limerick, Ireland, of German parents who had earlier fled the religious persecution of Protestants. She married Paul Heck and settled in New York City. With no pastor attending to them, some of the group of Germans became “careless of religious observances,” and when Barbara found the playing cards, she threw the cards into the first, berated them and talked a member of the group and her cousin, Philip Embury, who had been a preacher, to start holding meetings.

In 1770 the Hecks moved to Camden, New York, where she had a daughter. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War they moved to Salem, New York to be with Loyalists, and founded the first Methodist Society there.

Her husband, Paul, joined the army of Burgoyne and while at home on a furlouugh at the time of the surrender at Saratoga was arrested by patriot soldiers, but got away while the soldiers slept. He escaped to Canada, where Barbara joined him. They formed the first Methodist Society in Canada.