“Do not be alarmed when you hear of the great riots. Your trio are safe, and we trust the worst is over.”

“Do not be alarmed when you hear of the great riots. Your trio are safe, and we trust the worst is over.”

Lavina Goodell, July 17, 1863

At a time when many cities have seen protests, with some erupting into violence and clashes with police, the chaotic scenes displayed in our modern media might look somewhat familiar to Lavinia Goodell, since in the summer of 1863 she and her parents experienced New York City’s deadly draft riots firsthand.

By early 1863, as the Civil War dragged on, Union forces faced a serious manpower shortage, so President Lincoln’s government passed a strict new conscription law making all male citizens between the ages of 20 and 35 and all unmarried men between 35 and 45 subject to military service. All eligible men were entered into a lottery. Men could buy their way out of service by either hiring a substitute or paying $300 to the government, but since that was a year’s salary it was an option available only to the wealthy. Because African Americans were not considered citizens, they were exempt from the draft. Anti-war newspapers published inflammatory attacks on the new draft law, aimed at inciting the white working class.

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Posted by admin in Principia years, Young Adulthood: 1860-1871, 1 comment

Spinsterhood: the fate of an unattractive woman or a radical act?

Spinsterhood: the fate of an unattractive woman or a radical act?

Have you seen the Little Women movie? The new ending would have incited Lavinia Goodell to dash off an op-ed for the Woman’s Journal.

Jo March negotiating with her editor in Greta Gerwig's 2019 adaptation of Little Women
Jo March negotiating with her editor, Little Women (2019)

Greta Gerwig has Jo March telling an editor that her heroine was adamantly opposed marriage, so the novel would not end with her wedding either Laurie or Professor Bhaer. The editor shot back: “Who cares! Girls want to see women married, not consistent. If you end your delightful book with your heroine a spinster, no one will buy it. It won’t be worth printing.” For Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer, “them’s fightin’ words!”

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Of turkey-gobblers and young ladies!

Of turkey-gobblers and young ladies!

In 1862, a young man at the Brooklyn Times wrote: “The study of astronomy is of about as much use to a young lady as a knowledge of cookery is to a hen.” Lavinia, then a 22-year old Brooklynite, skewered him in The Principia:

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“I have been editor in chief . . . what do you think of that?”

“I have been editor in chief . . . what do you think of that?”

We want good original matter very much. Poor me! I have to “stand in the gap” and supply when others fail. I wouldn’t care if I could suit myself, but I do want our paper to be so extra good that I am always dissatisfied with my attempts.

Lavinia Goodell, November 2, 1862

From 1859 until early 1865, Lavinia Goodell’s father was the editor of the New York Principia, a weekly anti-slavery newspaper. The paper’s offices were located in lower Manhattan. The masthead proclaimed that the publication stood for “First Principles in Religion, Morals, Government, and the Economy of Life.”

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Posted by admin in Principia years, Young Adulthood: 1860-1871, 2 comments