Black Lives Mattered to the Goodells

Black Lives Mattered to the Goodells

Lavinia Goodell grew up in a staunch abolitionist family. In 1833, her father William Goodell assisted in organizing the American Anti-Slavery Society. He started the “Emancipator” newspaper and in later years edited other similar papers, including “The Friend of Man,” “The Radical Abolitionist” and “The Principia,” on which Lavinia worked alongside him.

William Goodell - Lavinia's father

Even in the north, abolitionists were frequently persecuted and mobbed and their lives threatened. According to the In Memoriam pamphlet written by his daughters after his death in 1878:

Mr. Goodell was at one time obliged to leave his home in Brooklyn, with his family, and seek shelter in an obscure locality of New York, till the feeling of the mob-oligarchy had spent itself; at another time he barely escaped the grasp of an incoming mob, who clamorously offered a price for his head, as they put to rout an anti-slavery meeting being quietly held in a public hall in New York.

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“What a good father we have!”

“What a good father we have!”

–Lavinia Goodell, March 10, 1864

Lavinia Goodell and her father, William, shared a close relationship founded on mutual respect. William was 47 years old when Lavinia was born in 1839. His wife was 42. (Read about Lavinia’s birth here.) Their only other living child, Maria, was 12 and soon went off to school and then married, so for much of her youth Lavinia was the only child in the home.

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Happy Birthday, Vinnie!

Happy Birthday, Vinnie!

Rhoda Lavinia Goodell was born 181 years ago–on May 2, 1839. In celebration of her birthday, we are highlighting some family lore about her personality and escapades as a baby and young child. If hindsight is 20-20, then it was clear early on that Vinnie (as her family and close friends called her) would grow into a trailblazer for women’s rights and other social reforms.

Lavinia Goodell as a girl.
We have no baby photos, but here is Vinnie as a girl.

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Lavinia’s birth: “the voice of the newcomer”

Lavinia’s birth: “the voice of the newcomer”

On May 2, 1839, William and Clarissa Goodell, aged 47 and 42, welcomed a new baby girl to their family. Their only other living child, Maria, was 12. Clarissa’s advanced maternal age and previous, difficult childbirths were cause for concern. So William hastened to send his father-in-law details of Clarissa’s health, the new babe, and the family’s joy to assure him that all was well.

May 15, 1839

Dear Father,

 . . . On Thursday morning, May 2, at about half past 3 o’clock, the Lord was pleased to bless us with another fine daughter, who is doing well thus far, and her mother is comfortable, and in a fair way to recover in safety. Thus, when we feared evil, the Lord has covered us with the mantle of his Goodness and mercy.

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