“In this era of Progress, young ladies have got their eyes open.”

“In this era of Progress, young ladies have got their eyes open.”

Lavinia Goodell, April 1860

In the spring of 1860, Lavinia Goodell wrote a six-part series titled “Chapters to Young Men, on How to Win a Wife,” which was published in her father’s anti-slavery newspaper, the Principia. (Read about the first two installments here and here.)

Lavinia’s offerings appeared in the “Family Miscellany” section at the end of the weekly paper. They provided some levity in a publication whose masthead declared itself devoted to “First Principles in Religion, Morals, Government, and the Economy of life.”  The April 28, 1860 issue in which the third of  Lavinia’s “Chapters to Young Men” appeared, contained a letter from Gerrit Smith’s daughter agreeing with William Goodell’s sentiment that, correctly interpreted, the United States Constitution was anti-slavery and if in fact parts of the Constitution were in favor of slavery, then those parts are “so wrong as to be altogether null and void.” Lavinia possibly felt that after reading six pages on such sobering topics, some humor was in order on pages seven and eight, and she was happy to provide it.

April 28, 1860 Principia

In part three of her series, Lavinia began by telling young men not to fall in love with every girl they meet and not to form judgments too hastily. “There are a great many girls whom you will like, with whom you will form very pleasant friendships, but only one to whom you can give your whole heart.”

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“Have a character! Mean something.”

“Have a character! Mean something.”

Lavinia Goodell, April 21, 1860

In the second chapter of her series-  published the Principia – imparting advice on how young men could win a wife (read about the first chapter here), twenty year old Lavinia Goodell continued her theme that if a young man expected to attract a prospective spouse of high character, he would need to convince the young woman that he was worthy of her. She began:

Lavinia continued, “Do you dream of a gentle, pure, thoughtful maiden, she dreams of a strong, noble, whole-souled man. Be a man, then, if you would win a woman. Have some manliness, and act it out.”

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“A man has got to be something, if he is going to win something.”

“A man has got to be something, if he is going to win something.”

Lavinia Goodell, April 1860

From 1859 until early 1865, Lavinia Goodell assisted her father in editing and publishing the Principia, an anti-slavery newspaper, from its offices in lower Manhattan. She also wrote dozens of pieces for the paper. None carried a full byline. Many were simply signed “L.” In the spring of 1860, twenty year old Lavinia wrote a series of articles titled “Chapters to Young Men, on How to Win a Wife” in which she offered some good natured but sly commentary advice on the qualities women were likely to be drawn to.

She began:

She then admonished gentlemen that if they wished to win the hearts of such perfect creatures, they had better make sure they were worthy.

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“Nobody is fitted for a low place, and everybody is taught to look for a high one.”

“Nobody is fitted for a low place, and everybody is taught to look for a high one.”

Lavinia Goodell, January 1862

In January of 1862, twenty-two year old Lavinia Goodell wrote an article for her father’s anti-slavery newspaper the Principia titled Errors in Education.

The proposition of the piece was that all young people were encouraged to strive to achieve high office or positions of honor when in fact most people would be better served by filling humbler stations in life. Her article began:

Lavinia quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of her favorite poets, in the piece. While she said, “There is a fine ring to the familiar quatrain of Mr. Longfellow, it is nothing more than a musical cheat. The lives of great men remind us that they have made their own memory sublime but they do not assure us at all that we can leave footprints like theirs behind us.”

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“There is no death – what seems so is transition.”

“There is no death – what seems so is transition.”

Lavinia Goodell, quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, November 1861

At this time of year, those of us who live in the northern states become keenly aware that summer is over. Leisurely drives to observe the fall colors are a favored pastime for many.

Lavinia Goodell, too, was a fan of autumn. The Goodell family’s correspondence in the 1860s and 1870s often contained some comment about the weather, and Lavinia’s letters made clear that she enjoyed the season.  While she was still living in New York, Lavinia wrote to her parents, “It was a glorious day. It is quite cool and delicious autumn weather now, and I never felt better. “  After travelling by train from Pecatonica, Illinois to Janesville, Wisconsin after visiting her sister in 1873, she reported, “I think I never saw such fine autumn scenery.”

A decade earlier, twenty-two year old Lavinia had written a short piece titled “Autumn Leaves” for the Principia, her father’s anti-slavery newspaper. She began by quoting Longfellow, “There is no death – what seems so is transition.”

From the November 9, 1861 Principia
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“I expect to start Tuesday p.m. of Sept. 5”

“I expect to start Tuesday p.m. of Sept. 5”

Lavinia Goodell, August 27, 1871

During this week in 1871, thirty-two year old Lavinia Goodell left New York City and her job at Harper’s Bazar behind and boarded the first of a series of trains that would take her to Janesville, Wisconsin where she would live for the remaining eight and a half years of her life.

Lavinia’s departure from New York was unexpected. In June 1871, her sister and brother-in-law, Maria and Lewis Frost, with whom Lavinia’s elderly parents had been living on the south side of Janesville, rather abruptly announced they were moving  out of the area. Apparently it was not possible for the elder Goodells to accompany them, and they could not manage a household on their own, so rather than them relocating back to the east coast, where they had lived until moving to Wisconsin in 1870, Lavinia decided to move to Janesville to help care for them.

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“Trees, en masse, are like humanity en masse”

“Trees, en masse, are like humanity en masse”

Lavinia Goodell, June 1861

During the Civil War years, when Lavinia Goodell assisted her father in publishing his anti-slavery newspaper, the Principia, she wrote a large number of pieces for the paper. (Some of them are featured here, here, and here.)  None of Lavinia’s contributions bear her full name, and many are signed only “L” or “L.G.” The anonymity allowed Lavinia to assume the identity of a man or an older woman, depending on the subject of the piece. In letters to her sister, Lavinia said she enjoyed the fact that no one would know she was the author. The lack of attribution also allowed Lavinia to try out various literary forms, including poetry, short stories, and inspirational pieces.

The June 1, 1861 issue of the Principia featured a Lavinia piece titled “Analogies,” a light-hearted article that compared people to trees.

June 1, 1861 Principia
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“Do your part in the world’s work.”

“Do your part in the world’s work.”

Lavinia Goodell, December 1861

Lavinia Goodell had a strong work ethic and was rarely idle. In 1853, at age fourteen, she was already helping her father publish and distribute an anti-slavery publication and was very proud to report to her sister that after deducting the cost of ferry and stage expenses she had cleared over $7.00 for sixteen days of work and felt quite rich.

In 1861, Lavinia was twenty-two years old and was assisting her father in publishing the Principia, another anti-slavery paper.

In the December 7, 1861 issue she wrote a short piece titled “Labor the Duty of All,” which chided everyone “with stout bodies and active brains,” whether rich or poor, to put their talents to use. She said, “You owe that world your vigorous limbs and active muscles, your thinking brain, and beating heart, and if you withhold them, you are guilty!”

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