“At the time of her death, Miss Goodell was in debt to me in the sum of $50.”

“At the time of her death, Miss Goodell was in debt to me in the sum of $50.”

Kate Kane, January 1881

When Lavinia Goodell drafted her will in July of 1879, she no doubt believed that her estate would be divided exactly as she specified, and she probably did not expect anyone to file spurious claims. Unfortunately, her will was challenged and her friend and fellow Janesville attorney, Kate Kane, filed a claim against the estate.

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Posted by admin in Death/estate, 0 comments

“In evening, drafted my will.”

“In evening, drafted my will.”

Lavinia Goodell, July 4, 1879

In 1879, approximately nine months before she died, Lavinia Goodell spent part of the July 4th holiday drafting her will.

There is no indication that she had previous wills. Both of Lavinia’s parents had died in 1878. She had drafted their wills. Upon their deaths, Lavinia inherited a goodly sum of money and, being a meticulous planner, she no doubt wanted to make sure that when she died, her estate would be distributed precisely the way she wanted. (Read the entire will here.)

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Posted by admin in Death/estate, 1 comment

“Mrs. Guernsey is a … woman’s rights woman.”

“Mrs. Guernsey is a … woman’s rights woman.”

Lavinia Goodell, August 18, 1873

In addition to her good friend Mrs. Beale, Lavinia Goodell counted on Mrs. Orrin Guernsey to advance the cause of temperance and, to a lesser extent, women’s rights.

(Stock photo. Does not depict the members of Janesville’s LTU)

Sarah Cooley Guernsey was born in New Hampshire in 1821. At age seventeen she married Orrin Guernsey and in 1843 the couple and their children moved to Janesville. The Guernseys featured prominently in Janesville society. Mr. Guernsey was  twice elected to the Wisconsin legislature. In the 1860s, President Johnson appointed him a member of a commission that concluded treaties with the Sioux Indians. He served on the Janesville city council; was a member of the board of the directors for the institution for the blind; served on the board of the Madison Mutual Insurance Company; and was a founder of the Rock County Agricultural Society.

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Posted by admin in Temperance, 0 comments

“Am glad Bennett is to take the case with me.”

“Am glad Bennett is to take the case with me.”

Lavinia Goodell, January 27, 1875

The case that spawned Lavinia Goodell’s epic battle for admission to the Wisconsin Supreme Court was Tyler v. Burrington. In November of 1874, Lavinia was retained by Lydia Burrington, a doctor’s widow who had been sued by a young woman whom the Burringtons had taken in ten years earlier and treated as a family member. The young woman claimed she had been treated as a servant and that Dr. Burrington had told her he intended to pay her for her work. Lavinia could tell that the case was likely to be a tough one, and she had only been practicing law for five months, so she looked for someone who would assist her. After Pliny Norcross turned her down, she turned to John R. Bennett.

Bennett initially said he could not help Lavinia either, but by January 1875, to Lavinia’s relief, he changed his mind.

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Posted by admin in Colleagues, 0 comments

“Mr. Sloan read my argument. Judge Ryan mad as a bull.”

“Mr. Sloan read my argument. Judge Ryan mad as a bull.”

Lavinia Goodell, December 14, 1875

When Lavinia Goodell applied for admission to the Wisconsin Supreme Court bar in 1875, she was not allowed to present the motion to the court herself. Instead, her argument was read by Assistant Attorney General I.C. Sloan. Along with J.B. Cassoday, Sloan, a former Janesville attorney, was one of the people who made Lavinia’s admission to the Supreme Court bar possible.

I. C. Sloan
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Posted by admin in Legal practice, 0 comments

“Lawyer Cassoday calls me his sister in law.”

“Lawyer Cassoday calls me his sister in law.”

Lavinia Goodell, June 30, 1874

One of Lavinia Goodell’s staunchest allies during her legal career was John Bolivar Cassoday. He offered her advice on cases, allowed her to use his extensive law library, and as a member of the Wisconsin legislature, introduced the bill that decreed that no person could be denied a license to practice law on account of sex, thus allowing Lavinia to be admitted to practice before the Wisconsin Supreme Court

John Bolivar Cassoday
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Posted by admin in Legal practice, Proposed legislation, 0 comments

“I have a tremendous large school. 92 names on my day school list.”

“I have a tremendous large school. 92 names on my day school list.”

Sarah Thomas to Lavinia Goodell, January 22, 1871

Lavinia Goodell had lifelong friendships with many people who were active in the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War. Once the war ended, many continued to work to gain equal opportunities for Blacks. One of those people, Sallie Holley, came to play an important part in the life of Lavinia’s cousin and close confidante, Sarah Thomas.

Sallie Holley was born in New York State in 1818. Her father, Myron, was an abolitionist and an associate of Lavinia Goodell’s father. Holley attended Oberlin College in Ohio, the first predominantly white college to admit Black male students (in 1835) and two years later the first college in the country to admit women. At Oberlin, Holley met Caroline Putnam. In later years Putnam described them as “the only two ultra radicals there.”

Sallie Holley and Caroline Putnam
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Posted by admin in Friends, 1 comment

“Miss Eveleth & Carrie Jocelyn are off for Beaufort, S.C. to teach the contrabands.”

“Miss Eveleth & Carrie Jocelyn are off for Beaufort, S.C. to teach the contrabands.”

Lavinia Goodell, January 11, 1864

Prior to the Civil War, it was illegal for enslaved people to learn to read or write. Beginning in 1863, Freedmen’s schools were created in areas occupied by Union forces to provide education for newly freed Blacks. (The Blacks were referred to as “contrabands of war.”) Lavinia Goodell, who grew up in a staunch abolitionist family, knew several women who taught at Freedmen’s schools.

Freedmen’s School at Edisto Island, South Carolina

In early 1864, Carrie Jocelyn and Emma Eveleth, two of Lavinia’s friends from Brooklyn, traveled to Hilton Head island off the coast of Beaufort, South Carolina, to teach at two Freedmen’s schools. The schools were run under the auspices of the American Missionary Association.

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Posted by admin in Friends, 2 comments