“Has Willie enlisted yet?”

“Has Willie enlisted yet?”

Lavinia Goodell, August 12, 1862

Lavinia Goodell did not have children, but she clearly doted on her four nephews and had a special relationship with the eldest, William Goodell Frost. Named after his maternal grandfather, the family affectionately called him Willie.

Willie was born in 1854, when Lavinia was fifteen. When he was four years old, his mother wrote to Lavinia, “Willie says, ‘I wonder if Aunt Vinny curls her hair yet. How pretty it must look. I do want to see her.’”

William Goodell Frost
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Posted by admin in Young Adulthood: 1860-1871, 0 comments

“I know Lavinia can never earn a steady living.”

“I know Lavinia can never earn a steady living.”

Maria Frost, April 10, 1865

It is doubtful that Lavinia Goodell ever enjoyed extended periods of good health. She was a sickly infant and youngster, and as an adult she was often ill. (During the years she practiced law, in addition to physical ailments, she suffered from frequent bouts of severe depression. That topic will be covered in a future post.) In spite of her many maladies,  Lavinia rarely complained, and she never let her poor health stand in the way of accomplishing whatever she set out to do.

Lavinia Goodell as a teenager

Although Lavinia did not waste time worrying about herself and maintained a hectic schedule until the final months of her life, her mother and sister spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about her and trying to dissuade her from being so active.

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Posted by admin in Young Adulthood: 1860-1871, 0 comments

“Hattie grows lovelier every day.”

“Hattie grows lovelier every day.”

Maria Frost, December 1, 1862.

The child mortality rate was high in the mid-1800s, with 34% of children born in 1860 not living to see their fifth birthday. The Goodell family was not spared.  Lavinia Goodell’s sister and brother-in-law lost two young children.

Maria and Lewis Frost already had one son when, on January 20, 1858, Lewis Frost wrote to his in-laws reporting that Maria had just given birth to a fine, healthy eight pound boy in Arcade, New York, which is near Buffalo. Lewis said, “I am very glad the child is a boy though I did not expect it. The name is not ready yet. If he lives a few weeks, we shall try to find a name.” Sadly, the infant remained unnamed. On February 19, 1858, Lewis wrote, “Our baby is just leaving us. We all feel sure that it cannot survive the day out…. The babe we shall take to Riga for burial…. Maria says she is not sorry she had the child. Neither am I.”

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Posted by admin in Principia years, 3 comments

“Necessity compels many women to go into the world of business”

“Necessity compels many women to go into the world of business”

Lavinia Goodell, November 1867

Lavinia Goodell was a voracious reader and subscribed to many publications, particularly those with a connection to the Congregational Church and those advancing the cause of women’s rights. One of the periodicals she read regularly was the Advance, a weekly publication of the Congregational Church that was headquartered in Chicago and put out its first issue in September 1867.

It was not long before Lavinia found cause to send a letter to the magazine. (Lavinia was not the first member of her family to be published in the Advance. Her father beat her to the punch by having his article “Christ for all time” published in the September 19, 1867 issue.)

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Posted by admin in Harper's Bazar years, 0 comments

“What do you think about a change of business?”

“What do you think about a change of business?”

Maria Frost, August 30, 1865

Lavinia Goodell held a number of different jobs. She was rarely out of work for long and, like many young people who are trying to move up in the world, she was always on the lookout for fresh opportunities. Her family and friends also sometimes suggested positions that they thought might suit her.

Lavinia Goodell, c. 1870
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Posted by admin in Teaching years, 0 comments

“I am now a large capitalist!”

“I am now a large capitalist!”

Lavinia Goodell, August 15, 1870

Lavinia Goodell made history as one of the country’s first women lawyers, but what if she had pursued a different career, such as millinery store owner? Although that might sound far-fetched, it’s not. Thanks to recently discovered family letters, we have learned that before Lavinia decided to study law, she gave serious consideration to going into the millinery business.

Stock photo of 1870s hat
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Posted by admin in Harper's Bazar years, 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?

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

“Am glad you like the photo.”

“Am glad you like the photo.”

Lavinia Goodell, January 9, 1871

Lavinia Goodell mentioned having her photograph taken on several occasions. One of her sittings occurred the week before Christmas in 1870. At the time, Lavinia was living with her aunt and uncle in Brooklyn and working at Harper’s Bazar in lower Manhattan. She wrote to her parents on December 18 that she was enclosing $3.00 for them to frame a photograph which she was going to send them for their Christmas present. She said, “Don’t know how good it will be.” Two days later she wrote her parents again, saying “The photograph is done & I have ordered it mailed to you today, from the photographer, as they can pack it best.”

Although we have no have no way to know for certain, because the photograph bears no identifying mark, we think there is a good chance that this is the photo:

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Posted by admin in Harper's Bazar years, 0 comments