“Abject submission is not the way to an honorable peace.”

“Abject submission is not the way to an honorable peace.”

Lavinia Goodell, September 1879

Lavinia Goodell never married or had children, but she was a lifelong proponent of full equal rights for women, including marriage equality.  In the fall of 1879, she wrote a series of articles (read more here) countering pieces that appeared in the Christian Union newspaper that admonished women to defer to their husbands. Lavinia’s rebuttals ran in Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal. Lavinia’s first offering, titled “The way to peace,” was written in late August 1879 and appeared in the September 13 Woman’s Journal issue.

Lavinia began by quoting the Christian Union’s premise that wives should submit themselves to their husbands because “a two-headed creature is always a monstrosity.”

For Lavinia, this was “enough to make the blood of any intelligent, self-respecting woman boil with indignation.”

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“Put up at Park Hotel. Quite a stylish place.”

“Put up at Park Hotel. Quite a stylish place.”

Lavinia Goodell, December 20, 1875

During the time Lavinia Goodell lived in Janesville, Wisconsin in the 1870s, she would occasionally have to take the train to Madison, the state’s capitol, for business. When she needed to stay overnight in Madison, she chose the Park Hotel.

Park Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin 1870s

The Park Hotel, at the corner of Main and Carroll Streets on the capitol square, opened in August of 1871 and cost $125,000 to construct. The day before its grand opening, the Wisconsin State Journal reported:

The site chosen is so superior, that even those who first objected to it, now express entire satisfaction with it, and most of them admit that it is the best that could have been found.

It is built of Milwaukee pressed cream colored brick, with trimmings of the best of Madison stone…; is four stories high, with Mansard roof of elaborate finish…. The exterior of the building presents a most pleasing appearance, and is greatly admired by all who see it.

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“The Gazette is on the side of the people.”

“The Gazette is on the side of the people.”

Wisconsin State Journal, July 12, 1875

1870s Janesville, Wisconsin was not a large city, and its residents frequently encountered one another in both business and social settings. During her years in Janesville, Lavinia Goodell developed a very cordial relationship with the proprietors of the Janesville Gazette, both the local editor, Nicholas Smith, and the paper’s co-owner and editor-in-chief, General James Bintliff.

General James Bintliff (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society)

Bintliff was born in Halifax, England in 1824. He came to New York City in 1842 and in 1851 moved to Monroe, Wisconsin where he took a job at a bank. While in Monroe he was elected the Green County register of deeds and in 1859 he was admitted to the bar. In 1860 he became part owner of the Monroe Sentinel newspaper. Bintliff was a passionate abolitionist and helped found Wisconsin’s Republican party.

In 1862, Bintliff recruited a company of Monroe soldiers and was elected their captain. In 1863, his company was attacked and captured by Confederate forces in Tennessee and imprisoned. A few months later the men were freed as part of a prisoner exchange. In 1864, Bintliff was promoted to serve as colonel of the 38th Wisconsin Infantry. In 1865, he was brevetted Brigadier General for leading a successful charge upon Fort Mahone in Virginia. After the war, he returned to Monroe and resumed publication of the Sentinel.

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“The heavy, barred gates of the professions creak on their hinges.”

“The heavy, barred gates of the professions creak on their hinges.”

Lavinia Goodell, November 1875

In November of 1875, the seventh annual meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Association was held at Steinway Hall in New York. Over 200 delegates, both men and women, attended.

November 19, 1875 New York Daily Herald

 Lavinia Goodell was unable to attend, but she wrote a letter for the occasion, and her friend and mentor, Lucy Stone, chairman of the executive committee, read it to the group. The letter was published in the Woman’s Journal, Lucy Stone’s publication, in early December.

Photo of Lucy Stone
Lucy Stone

 Lucy Stone’s own address apparently caused a stir. The New York Daily Herald reported that it “was an exposition of what she considers the indecorum and absurdity of the Centennial celebration of independence by men who deny to one-half of the citizens of the United States the right of self-government, and urged all women to refuse to participate in the mockery.” A male delegate from Pennsylvania took issue with Lucy Stone on this issue and said while it was true that the Revolution did not enfranchise women, the new government was based upon principles which would naturally and inevitably lead to woman’s suffrage, so women should join in the Centennial celebration.

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“Mr. Sale was District Attorney & made a very kind and gentlemanly opposing counsel.”

“Mr. Sale was District Attorney & made a very kind and gentlemanly opposing counsel.”

Lavinia Goodell, November 18, 1875

While practicing law in Janesville, Wisconsin in the 1870s, Lavinia Goodell had the good fortune to deal with other attorneys who were good practitioners and good citizens. John W. Sale was one of them.

John Sale was one year Lavinia’s junior, born in Indiana in 1840. His parents moved to Rock County when he was an infant. Sale attended the Evansville seminary, taught school for five years, then began to study law in the office of Harmon Conger, who was the circuit court judge who admitted Lavinia to the practice of law in 1874. Sale attended Michigan University and graduated from its law department. He returned to Janesville in the late 1860s and began to practice law. He had a number of partners, including John Bennett In the early 1870s he served as Janesville’s city attorney for several years. In 1874, he became Rock County’s district attorney, and it was in that professional capacity that Lavinia dealt with him.

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“I have proved my strong mindedness by climbing into the trees.”

“I have proved my strong mindedness by climbing into the trees.”

Lavinia Goodell, July 13, 1873

Because of global transportation, refrigeration, and food preservation methods, modern grocery shoppers have year round access to a virtually unlimited variety of food.  Lacking those conveniences, the fare available to people in the nineteenth century was often quite limited. Lavinia Goodell’s extensive correspondence with family members frequently recounted what they were eating, particularly when they were able to enjoy seasonal delicacies such as fresh fruit. Cherries were apparently one of Lavinia’s favorites.

In a letter to her cousin written in the summer of 1873, Lavinia described taking precious time away from her legal studies to pick cherries at the Goodells’ home on South Academy Street in Janesville:

Since I wrote you I have resumed my study which has been interrupted only by seasons of cherry picking in the mornings when I have proved my strong mindedness by climbing into the trees. Also getting out onto the roof to reach some of the branches. Have got all but a few which are beyond my reach but are visible and look provokingly tempting from my bedroom window.  

The image of a slender young woman in her mid-thirties, wearing a floor length dress and high top shoes, climbing trees or crawling out her bedroom window onto the roof in order to capture the ripe fruit is rather amusing.

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“Went to a temperance drama at Lappin’s Hall.”

“Went to a temperance drama at Lappin’s Hall.”

Lavinia Goodell, February 10, 1874

Janesville, Wisconsin has a wealth of historical buildings remaining, including some frequented by Lavinia Goodell when she lived in the city in the 1870s. One such building is the Lappin-Hayes Block located at the corner of Main and Milwaukee Streets, in the heart of the city’s downtown.

Lappin Block, c. 1880

Janesville is named after Henry James, who built a timber house on the Rock River, on the site of the Lappin-Hayes block, in 1836. Thomas Lappin, an early Janesville merchant, built a two-story store there in 1842. In 1855, Lappin erected a four-story red brick Italianate building on the site. The ground floor housed stores. The second floor had office space leased to attorneys, physicians, and other professionals. John Cassoday, one of Lavinia Goodell’s mentors, who later became Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, had his office in Lappin’s Block. The top floors of the building contained two performance halls, Lappin’s Hall and Apollo Hall. Lappin’s Hall was the larger one. It held hundreds of people and hosted many performances and community events. In her letters and diaries, Lavinia Goodell mentioned attending many functions there.

Janesville Daily Gazette, November 24, 1875
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“A young man from Beloit, by name of Dow, was examined and admitted with me.”

“A young man from Beloit, by name of Dow, was examined and admitted with me.”

Lavinia Goodell, June 18, 1874

Lavinia Goodell was not the only person to successfully undertake the bar examination at the Rock County Courthouse and be admitted to practice law in Wisconsin on June 17, 1874. A second aspiring attorney went through the same trial. Lavinia wrote to her sister the next day, “A young man from Beloit, by name of Dow, was examined and admitted with me.”

Lavinia Goodell’s June 17, 1874 letter to Maria Frost

Lavinia expanded on her Beloit colleague in a letter to her cousin Sarah Thomas. She explained that although she had initially doubted that Judge Conger would hold the examination on June 17:

But he said that the Beloit young man had come, and perhaps I had better go up and see him, and see if we could get the judge to approve a time. So I went up. Found the young man glad to see me, and we became good friends at once. He seemed quite pleased with the idea of being examined with a lady and was quite cordial and gallant. I found that he dreaded the examination full as much as I did, which was quite a consolation to me. He was in a hurry wanting to return to Beloit that night, so his lawyer pushed up the judge, to let us in, to be examined that night…. [W]e weathered the storm very well, and I do not think I suffered any by comparison with my colleague.

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