“Mrs. Beale is very neighborly. Comes in nearly every day.”

Lavinia Goodell, June 27, 1873

Lavinia Goodell’s best friend and closest confidant during her years in Janesville, Wisconsin was Mrs. D.A. (Dorcas Amanda) Beale. Lavinia’s diaries for the years 1873 through 1879 mention Mrs. Beale 392 times.

Mrs. Beale was born in Maine in either 1825 or 1827. (There is a two year variation in her age between the 1860 and 1870 census.) She came west at a young age, taught school in Chicago, and married John Beale in Beloit in 1857. John was a hatter who had a store on Milwaukee Street in Janesville, next door to the building where Lavinia set up her law office in 1874. John Beale died unexpectedly while on a trip to Hartford, Connecticut in 1863. He was 39 years old.

In May of 1873 Lavinia and her parents leased one half of a “double house” on South Academy Street in Janesville. Mrs. Beale lived a block away.

Mrs. D.A. Beale’s home, 302 South Academy Street, Janesville, Wis.

Over the remaining six and a half years of Lavinia’s life, she and Mrs. Beale called at each other’s homes several times a week. Both women were members of the Congregational Church. (Learn more about Lavinia’s association with the church here.) Both women were also members of the Round Table literary society. But it was as fellow temperance warriors that Lavinia and Mrs. Beale truly bonded.  

In the summer of 1873, Mrs. Beale and Lavinia helped organize the Janesville Ladies Temperance Union. (Learn more about it here.) Mrs. Beale was elected president. Lavinia was the secretary. The two women worked tirelessly to advance the temperance cause. The Janesville Gazette reported that on New Year’s Day 1874, “The Ladies Temperance Union hung the stars and stripes over the door of the residence of the president of the society and received callers with an iron clad temperance pledge.”  Lavinia found Mrs. Beale to be a great advocate for the cause. She wrote her sister, “Mrs. Beale is very enthusiastic. It was she and I who started the whole movement.” And later, “Mrs. Beale made a speech. She is getting on fast.” Both women were frequent speakers on temperance, and they attended conventions together. In 1875, the Janesville LTU opened a free library and reading room in Janesville.

In the fall of 1875 the Janesville Gazette ran multiple articles informing its readers of Mrs. Beale’s progress in demolishing the 1841 building that had housed her husband’s hat store and erecting a two story cream colored brick building that she leased to Moseleys book store. At its grand opening on November 1, 1875, the Gazette said:

The new store built by Mrs. D.A. Beale is certainly a credit not only to the builder, but the city. Mr. Moseley is now located in one of the finest bookstore rooms in the state… To Mrs. Beale, through whose enterprise it was built, belongs no little praise. She has done something for Janesville, and especially for the West Side, which redounds her credit.

Although Lavinia’s views and Mrs. Beale’s were companionably aligned on the temperance issue, the women did not see eye to eye on the suffrage question. While Lavinia was a lifelong advocate for women gaining the right to vote, Mrs. Beale, like many women of the day, was strongly anti-suffrage. When the topic arose, Lavinia had to fight to contain her frustration. Her July 5, 1874 diary entry said, “Had a long call from Mrs. Beale in which she talked so foolishly about woman suffrage that I nearly died of suppressed exasperation.” In spite of occasional disagreements, Mrs. Beale remained a faithful and caring friend. When Lavinia underwent treatment for an ovarian tumor in May of 1877, Mrs. Beale taught Lavinia’s jail class.  

In 1879, Mrs. Beale took a job as the corresponding secretary of the Wisconsin Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and moved to Madison. We have no record that the women saw each other during the short time that Lavinia lived in Madison at the end of that year. On February 26, 1880, when Lavinia was in Milwaukee undergoing treatment at a Turkish bath establishment (learn more about that experience here) Mrs. Beale wrote:

My dear friend,  I am truly sorry to hear of your sad case & hope the next news may be that you are better. I hope you will keep up courage, and if I can be of any service let me know. I am sure I sympathize with you for I should be forlorn in your condition. Yours with love, D.A. Beale.

 By 1885, Mrs. Beale’s health was failing, and she moved to San Francisco in hopes that a milder climate would suit her. She died there in November of 1886. A memorial read at the Janesville Congregational Church said:

She was always a faithful Sabbath school teacher, interesting the young in mission work for others as well as leading them to the Savior. We record with pleasure her generous, unselfish, thoroughly Christian character, of a cultivated mind; full of energy; always to the front in all good works in the church and society; for many years wielding the influence of her voice and pen in the cause of temperance in which she was a devoted and consecrated worker; she has done her full share towards making the world better for having lived in it, and has filled up a greater measure of usefulness than falls to the lot of many.  

Sources consulted: Lavinia Goodell’s diaries; 1860 and 1870 United States census; Janesville Gazette (August 12, 1863; January 2, 1874; December 31, 1886); Lavinia Goodell’s letters to Maria Frost (August 14, 1873; March 16, 1874; November 1, 1875); Janesville City Directory, 1876; www.ancestry.com

Leave a Reply