“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!”

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 0 comments

“Frémont is honoring our metropolis with quite a stay.”

“Frémont is honoring our metropolis with quite a stay.”

Lavinia Goodell, December 21, 1861

During the years Lavinia Goodell lived in New York, she took advantage of the city’s cultural events and met many leading figures of the day. In late 1861, during the early months of the Civil War, she met General John C. Frémont.

General John C. Frémont, c. 1862

Frémont was born in Georgia in 1813. In the 1840s he led a series of expeditions intended to survey the far west. In 1856, the newly formed Republican party chose him, an outspoken abolitionist, as their first presidential candidate. He lost the election to Democratic candidate James Buchanan.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Frémont was commissioned a Major General, and President Lincoln gave him command of the Department of the West. In late August 1861, Frémont proclaimed martial law in Missouri, arrested known secessionists, suspended newspapers charged with disloyalty, and announced the emancipation of the slaves of individuals who took action against the Union.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, Young Adulthood: 1860-1871, 0 comments

“We women are all radicals.”

“We women are all radicals.”

Lavinia Goodell, February 1860

The articles that Lavinia Goodell contributed to her father’s anti-slavery newspaper, the Principia, have been discussed in some of our earlier posts. (Read more here.) The February 25, 1860 issue of the paper contained an article she authored (although it was attributed to “Housekeeper”) titled “Meditations on Sweeping a Room.”

Twenty-year-old Lavinia’s piece was superficially about cleaning a room but, at a deeper level, it revealed that even at a young age she firmly believed women were every bit as capable as men – and were better suited to handle some tasks than their male counterparts. It also showed that she understood that when trying to accomplish something big (such as gaining more rights for women) it was better to implement small, incremental changes rather than trying to transform the world overnight.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 1 comment

“The Brooklyn sanitary fair was a magnificent affair.”

“The Brooklyn sanitary fair was a magnificent affair.”

Lavinia Goodell, March 10, 1864

In 1864, Lavinia Goodell was living in Brooklyn with her parents and working with her father in editing the Principia anti-slavery newspaper. In her spare time, Lavinia enjoyed taking in cultural events and expositions. In March of 1864, along with thousands of other people, she visited the Brooklyn sanitary fair.

During the Civil War, sanitary fairs were held to raise money for the war effort in major cities in the Northeast. (Read more about them here.) The fairs combined entertainment, education, and philanthropy. Although the United States Sanitary Commission was headed by men, most of its work was accomplished by thousands of women volunteers. In Brooklyn, the hugely successful sanitary fair raised $400,000, well above the projected $100,000. The money was used for clothing, food, medical supplies, and other provisions for the Union Army.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 1 comment

“Mind proudly asserts its superiority over matter.”

“Mind proudly asserts its superiority over matter.”

Lavinia Goodell, December 1859

Lavinia Goodell’s contributions to the Principia, her father’s anti-slavery newspaper, have been discussed in prior posts. (Click here and here to learn more.) None of Lavinia’s pieces bear her full name. We first learned that Lavinia wrote articles for the Principia when we reviewed an unpublished biography written by Elisabeth S. Peck, a long time history teacher at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where the William Goodell family papers are housed. Ms. Peck mentioned the titles of some of Lavinia’s Principia pieces, and that set us on the path of trying to uncover as many as we can. (The photo of the woman we call the “faux Lavinia” made its way to Berea because of Ms. Peck. Read more about that here.)

One of Lavinia’s early contributions to the Principia appeared in the December 31, 1859 issue. The story, written when Lavinia was twenty years old,  is titled “Meditation on Darning a Rent in My Dress,” and is signed “Housekeeper.” A digital version of the Principia is available in a massive database called Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive, published by Gale Publishing Company. Lest there be any doubt that Lavinia Goodell actually wrote ”Meditation,” the Principia issue scanned by Gale has “Lavinia Goodell” written at the beginning of  the piece in what looks like it could be Lavinia’s hand.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 0 comments

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful to have a drunkard for a father?”

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful to have a drunkard for a father?”

“Susy’s Christmas” by Lavinia Goodell, published in the Principia January 1, 1863

Lavinia Goodell was an active participant in the temperance movement. In 1873 she helped form Janesville’s Ladies Temperance Union. In 1875, she ran for Janesville city attorney on the temperance ticket. (Although she was unsuccessful, she got 60 votes at a time when only men could cast ballots.)

Lavinia’s temperance advocacy began in her youth, and her short stories sometimes dealt with the evils of excessive drinking. The January 1, 1863 issue of the Principia, her father’s anti-slavery newspaper, contained a short story titled “Susy’s Christmas,” in which two privileged children ask their Aunt Kate for a Christmas day story and are rewarded with a tale about an unfortunate young girl named Susy.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 0 comments

“Goodbye, City! Welcome, Country!”

“Goodbye, City! Welcome, Country!”

Lavinia Goodell, July 1861

Prior to moving to Janesville, Wisconsin in 1871, Lavinia Goodell had spent sixteen years living in Brooklyn and one year in Manhattan. Lavinia enjoyed the “society” of a big city. She liked to attend lectures, go to exhibitions, and visit friends. But she also enjoyed vacations out of the city, particularly when she had the opportunity to visit her sister, Maria Frost

Maria’s husband Lewis was a pastor. The Frosts tended to move every few years and resided in a variety of small towns. In 1861, they were living in Arcade, a village southeast of Buffalo with a population of about 630. Lavinia took a break from assisting her father with the publication of the Principia anti-slavery newspaper and spent two months with the Frosts that summer while Maria awaited the birth of her only daughter, Hattie

Lavinia continued to write pieces for the Principia while on vacation and found inspiration in her current surroundings. Her short story titled “In the Country,” which appeared in the July 20, 1861 issue of the Principia, described the home in which the Frosts lived (the family always referred to it as the Red Parsonage) and her young nephews, seven year old Willie, who dreamed of being a soldier, and two year old Lewis.

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 0 comments

“Don’t you wish you were an editor?”

“Don’t you wish you were an editor?”

Lavinia Goodell, June 1862

From 1859 until 1865, Lavinia  Goodell’s father was the editor of the anti-slavery newspaper the Principia, and Lavinia worked alongside him in the paper’s offices in lower Manhattan. She started out writing short pieces, then graduated to longer stories, and eventually served as a co-editor. None of her pieces bear her full name. Many are signed with her initials and some with pseudonyms. We have been able to identify approximately fifty of Lavinia’s Principia pieces, and there are no doubt more – perhaps many more – since a letter written by Lavinia’s sister Maria recently came to light in which Maria said, “I don’t feel at all ashamed to have your articles attributed to me.” Lavinia sometimes wrote articles from a male point of view and relished the anonymity. She told her sister, “But then people generally won’t know it’s me, you know, and I think it is a fruitful theme. Young ladies are lectured to quite enough, and it is time the ‘opposition’ got a little.”

In a lengthy piece titled “A Day in the Life of an Editor” that appeared in the June 5, 1862 Principia, Lavinia adopted the persona of  a male editor. Introducing her protagonist as “William Henry Hartley, a man of thirty-five years, and tolerably good looks,” she took her readers along on a frenzied, roller coaster ride of a day at the helm of a busy newsroom. (Read the full story here).

Continue reading →
Posted by admin in Principia years, 0 comments