“Health is more important than writing.”

“Health is more important than writing.”

Clarissa Goodell to Lavinia Goodell, August 5, 1861

Lavinia Goodell grew up in a family that believed in healthy living practices. Good nutrition, scrupulous sanitary customs, and regular exercise were part of their daily program. Here is how Lavinia’s sister, Maria Frost, described the household routine at the time of Lavinia’s birth in 1839:

The habits of the household [included] regularly stated hours of rising and retiring, the table regimen was according to the principles of Dr. Sylvester Graham, with some exceptions suggested by constitutional needs, as learned by careful experience and strong common sense.

 Sylvester Graham may not be a household name today, but a version of a product he developed is in many homes. Yes, Dr. Graham was the inventor of the graham cracker.

Dr. Sylvester Graham
Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, 0 comments

“There has been a great excitement here about a murder lately committed.”

“There has been a great excitement here about a murder lately committed.”

Maria Frost, July 18, 1855

In the course of researching Lavinia Goodell’s life and times, we have come across accounts of many little known, but interesting, historical events that impacted her or her family. For example, did you know that there was a public lynching in Janesville, Wisconsin in the summer of 1855? Here is the story that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Wisconsin State Journal, July 13, 1855
Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, 1 comment

“Dont try to be a man.”

“Don’t try to be a man.”

Maria Frost to Lavinia Goodell, April 13, 1858

In the spring of 1858, shortly before she graduated from the Brooklyn Heights Seminary, Lavinia Goodell was unsure what the next chapter of her life should hold, so she asked her sister for advice, saying:

I must have some life plan.  I don’t believe in living to get married, if that comes along in the natural course of events—very well, but to make it virtually my end and aim, to square all my plans to it, and study and learn for no other purpose, does not suit my ideas. … I would be dependent on my own exertions, be firmly established on my own basis.  I would study, investigate, try to do good.  I would aim at the highest. I think the study of law would be pleasant, but the practice attendant with many embarrassments. Indeed I fear it would be utterly impractical. Our folks would not hear of my going to college; I should not dare to mention it…. In all probability I must teach, that is all a woman can do.

On April 12, 1858, Maria Frost penned a lengthy response which made it clear she did not look kindly on Lavinia’s aspirations to enter any male dominated profession.

Maria Goodell Frost
Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, 0 comments

“She would love to live—very much—she thought of so many things she should love to do”

“She would love to live—very much—she thought of so many things she should love to do”

With ministers, social reformers, and politicians often stopping by the Goodell house, Lavinia certainly grew up in an intellectually stimulating environment. That may partly explain her precociousness. On the downside, little Lavinia did not spend much time playing with children her own age. Her parents were old enough to be her grandparents. Her sole sibling, Maria, was 12 years her senior. And frequent illness kept her from attending the district school. All that changed when cousin Amanda came to stay with the Goodells. To Maria, the visit was so transformative that she devoted a short chapter to Amanda in Lavinia’s biography.

Faux Lavinia, maybe Amanda Goodell?
Amanda Goodell?

Continue reading →

Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, Young Adulthood: 1860-1871, 1 comment

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.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, 1 comment

“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.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, Growing Up: 1839-1859, Family, 2 comments

Happy Birthday, Vinnie!

Happy Birthday, Vinnie!

Rhoda Lavinia Goodell was born 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.

Continue reading →

Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, 0 comments

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.

Continue reading →

Posted by admin in Growing Up: 1839-1859, 0 comments