“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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“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

“If I have any model in fiction, it is Mrs. Stowe.”

“If I have any model in fiction, it is Mrs. Stowe.”

Lavinia Goodell, April 21, 1860

Lavinia Goodell’s acquaintance with Congregationalist preacher Henry Ward Beecher has already been chronicled, but she was also an avid reader of the prose produced by two of Henry’s sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Catharine Beecher.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher was born in 1811. After teaching for several years, in 1832 she accompanied her father, Congregational minister Lyman Beecher,  to Cincinnati, Ohio when he became the president of Lane Seminary. In Cincinnati, Harriet met reformers and abolitionists and in 1833 published her first book, Primary Geography. In 1836 she married Calvin Stowe, a professor at Lane Seminary. Calvin encouraged Harriet’s writing. Harriet wrote many articles and thirty books.

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“We would have every path laid open to woman as freely as to man.”

“We would have every path laid open to woman as freely as to man.”

Margaret Fuller, 1845

Although Margaret Fuller may not widely known today, in the mid-nineteenth century she was a well known teacher, editor, and essayist whose best known book, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1845, examined the place of women within society. Lavinia Goodell admired Margaret Fuller’s works and spent countless hours reading them in order to prepare a paper that she delivered at a December 1877 meeting of Janesville, Wisconsin’s literary society, the Mutual Improvement Club.

Photo of Margaret Fuller
Margaret Fuller

Margaret Fuller was born in Massachusetts in 1810. A precocious child, her father, a lawyer, oversaw her education, providing his daughter with tutors in Latin, philosophy, history, science,  literature, and German. After her father’s death in 1835, the family found itself quite poor, and Margaret went to Boston as a teacher. She taught in Bronson Alcott’s school and offered classes for young ladies. She became a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and other Transcendentalists. Few would accuse her of being overly modest. It was while dining at Emerson’s home that Margaret uttered what is probably her best remembered remark: “I now know all the people worth knowing in America, and I find no intellect comparable with my own.”

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“The part assigned to women by nature is inconsistent with the practice of law.”

“The part assigned to women by nature is inconsistent with the practice of law.”

In re Dorsett, Minnesota Court of Common Pleas, October 1876

Martha Angle Dorsett was the first woman admitted to practice law in Minnesota. Ms. Dorsett was born in New York in 1851. After earning a bachelor of philosophy degree from the University of Michigan, she enrolled in the Iowa College of law. She graduated there in 1876 and married her classmate, Charles Dorsett, the same year.

Photo of Martha Angle Dorsett
Martha Angle Dorsett

Dorsett and her husband were admitted to the Iowa bar. They then relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they applied for admission to practice in Minnesota’s courts. Charles Dorsett’s application was granted. Martha Dorsett’s was not.

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“Judge Conger will stand by me.”

“Judge Conger will stand by me.”

Lavinia Goodell, December 20, 1875

When Lavinia Goodell became the first Wisconsin woman admitted to practice law in June of 1874, she could credit her accomplishment on her studiousness and tenacity, but if Circuit Judge Harmon S. Conger had refused to allow her to take the examination given to aspiring attorneys, Lavinia’s battle to become a member of the bar may have been far more protracted. Despite some initial uncertainty as to whether women were eligible to become lawyers, Judge Conger found no statute or rule explicitly prohibiting women’s admission to the bar, and he offered Lavinia the same chance to prove herself afforded to male candidates. Although the judge held conservative ideas on many topics, he treated Lavinia with equanimity and became her mentor and friend.

Photograph of Judge Harmon Conger
Judge Harmon S. Conger
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Posted by admin in Legal practice, 1 comment

Lavinia springs prisoner to speak at book club

Lavinia springs prisoner to speak at book club

That easily could have been the headline of the June 2, 1877, Janesville Gazette. Max St. Bar was an inmate at the Rock County Jail and one of many students in Lavinia’s jail school. She immediately noticed his intelligence and elocution. In her relentless effort to prove that prisoners often have good qualities and are worthy of mentoring, Lavinia persuaded the sheriff to release St. Bar for a bit so that he could recite poetry to her Mutual Improvement Club.

Lavinia’s article about Max St. Bar

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Posted by admin in Jail school/prison reform, 1 comment

“Went to Milwaukee to try Dr. Hanson’s Turkish baths.”

“Went to Milwaukee to try Dr. Hanson’s Turkish baths.”

Lavinia Goodell, January 21, 1880

In mid-January of 1880, ten weeks before her death from ovarian cancer, Lavinia Goodell travelled to Milwaukee to seek treatment at a Turkish bath establishment.

Picture of Milwaukee's turkish baths

The Milwaukee Thermo Therapea was located at 415 Sycamore Street, a few blocks west of the Milwaukee River. (Sycamore Street is now known as Michigan Street.)

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Posted by admin in Illness, 0 comments