“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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“Mrs. Beale is very neighborly. Comes in nearly every day.”

“Mrs. Beale is very neighborly. Comes in nearly every day.”

Lavinia Goodell, June 27, 1873

Lavinia Goodell’s best friend and closest confidant during her years in Janesville, Wisconsin was Mrs. D.A. (Dorcas Amanda) Beale. Lavinia’s diaries for the years 1873 through 1879 mention Mrs. Beale 392 times.

Mrs. Beale was born in Maine in either 1825 or 1827. (There is a two year variation in her age between the 1860 and 1870 census.) She came west at a young age, taught school in Chicago, and married John Beale in Beloit in 1857. John was a hatter who had a store on Milwaukee Street in Janesville, next door to the building where Lavinia set up her law office in 1874. John Beale died unexpectedly while on a trip to Hartford, Connecticut in 1863. He was 39 years old.

In May of 1873 Lavinia and her parents leased one half of a “double house” on South Academy Street in Janesville. Mrs. Beale lived a block away.

Mrs. D.A. Beale’s home, 302 South Academy Street, Janesville, Wis.
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“Dr. Clara Normington has concluded to enter upon the practice of medicine in this city.”

“Dr. Clara Normington has concluded to enter upon the practice of medicine in this city.”

Janesville Gazette, March 25, 1878

Janesville, Wisconsin in the late 1870s not only had three women lawyers (Lavinia Goodell, Kate Kane,  and Angie King), it also had a woman physician. According to the 1880 census, Dr. Clara Normington was born in England in 1845. (After her 1882 marriage she may have later shaved a few years off her actual age since the 1900 census says she was born in 1854, and her gravestone has that same notation.)  She graduated from the Woman’s Hospital Medical College in Chicago in 1878 and set up practice in Tallman’s block in Janesville, where Lavinia had her law office. The Janesville Gazette took note of her arrival and predicted,  “being thoroughly educated, she will doubtless find here a successful field of labor.”

1878 advertisement for Dr. Clara Normington's practice
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“The contest for the post office is growing hotter every day.”

“The contest for the post office is growing hotter every day.”

Janesville Gazette, February 6, 1869

After Lavinia Goodell became Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer, she served as a mentor to other women looking to enter the legal profession. The life and career of Kate Kane, the second Wisconsin woman admitted to the bar, is chronicled here. The third woman admitted to practice law in Wisconsin was also from Janesville and enjoyed a close relationship with Lavinia.

Angie King

Angela Josephine King was born in Ohio in 1845. Her family moved to Janesville when she was an infant. In 1867 she graduated from the Janesville Ladies’ Seminary, which encouraged independence of thought in its young ladies in addition to stressing culture, refinement, and high moral character.

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