Posts Tagged ‘famous women’

Grave of Helen Pitts Douglass

Helen Pitts Douglass was the 2nd wife of Frederick Douglass. Douglass’ first wife, Anna Murray, died in 1882 after over 40 years of marriage. Helen Pitts, an advocate for women’s rights and a graduate of Mount Holyoke Seminary, met Douglass when he hired her as a clerk. After his first wife’s death, he married the white woman who was 20 years his junior, their interracial marriage exposing tensions with long time friends and colleagues. After Frederick Douglass’ death in 1895, his widow dedicated herself to the creation of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association.

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Sara Hinson

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One of the interesting naming patterns that you sometimes see is in cemeteries. In life, unless you spend your time dealing with newborns (or birth certificates), you don’t often know the full first, middle, and last names of people you meet. But a tombstone is a likely place to have someone’s name spelled out in full. And some parents, perhaps hoping for greatness for their offspring, give their children famous people’s names as a first and middle name. Some children, by virtue of already possessing a convenient surname, end up sharing the same first name and surname with someone well-known.  At least, one assumes that parents were aware of the significance of the name combination they chose – perhaps some just liked the sound, made vaguely familiar by an association they couldn’t put their finger on. Like my friend Glenn Miller’s mother and father.

In the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, you can find the final resting place of Thomas Jefferson Alexander.

Alexander Thomas Jefferson (2)

Was Woodrow Wilson, who died as a baby in 1913 and is buried in East Cleveland Township Cemetery, named for the 28th President of the United States (elected the year of this Woodrow’s birth)?


Perhaps hoping to evoke a poetic affection in their babe, the grandparents of this young man named their son Ovid, and he bestowed the name on the next generation. (Harrisburg Cemetery)

Johnson Ovid

And this woman buried at Harrisburg Cemetery seems to be named for the famous nurse Florence Nightingale, who would have been well known by 1863.

Houck 1

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Louise Bethune

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Helen Peabody

When I was a student at Miami University of Ohio, everyone knew about the ghost of Helen Peabody. Helen Peabody was graduate of Mount Holyoke and a teacher there before she moved westward and became the first principal of Western Female Seminary (once Western College for Women, now preserved as Western Campus of the University). By all accounts, she loved her school and her students, although she did not love the proximity of the male students at the University. By all accounts, she did not believe in coeducation After thirty-five years of service, she left her name on Peabody Hall, a stately dormitory and classroom building, and, some say, her spirit inside. (The existing Peabody Hall was built on the foundations of previous seminary buildings that burned down.) Even though she died in California in retirement, her body was brought back to local cemetery in Oxford for burial. The stories about Peabody Hall and President Peabody are multiple.

The simplest is that she still roams the halls, and students see her apparition walk by, which they recognize by the portrait of her on the first floor. Vigilant in the protection of her legacy, she supposedly shook awake the student that raised the alarm the last time Peabody Hall had a serious fire. The most sinister versions of the Helen Peabody ghost stories have her as a fierce protector of female students, engaging in a sort of psychological warfare against male students who mistreat them. A friend of mine swore up and down that a male student experienced unexplained and untraceable calls to his answering machine where a low female voice threatened him and ordered him to get out of her hall. This story sounds similar.

Whatever your belief about her spirit, the earthly remains of Helen Peabody rest in Oxford Cemetery, just a hill or two over from her beloved academic home. Her grave is flanked by other colleagues who shared her dedication to higher education for women.

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As part of yet another roadtrip summer course on American Women’s History that looped through the New England and Mid-Atlantic states, we traveled to Susan B. Anthony’s home and gravesite in Rochester, New York.

Susan B. Anthony House

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was one of the most famous and influential 19th century women’s rights activists. Although she is most famous for her advocacy for women’s suffrage, Anthony was also involved in the abolition, temperance, labor, and education reform movements as well. Her family moved to Rochester, New York, when she was a young women, and she lived in the family home until her death. Her sister Mary Anthony, also an activist, remained in the house until her death in 1907.

The Anthony family plot is in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. Although Susan B. Anthony is the most famous resident, her entire family was active in the progressive movements of the 19th century.

Anthony family gravesite in Rochester

Lucy Read Anthony and Daniel Anthony attended a women’s rights convention in 1848 in Rochester, just weeks after the Seneca Falls Convention. Daniel Anthony was active in the temperance and abolitionist movements. All four of the Anthony sisters (Susan, Guelma, Hannah, and Mary) voted in 1872. Susan B. Anthony, as the leader, was arrested, convicted and fined for illegal voting. Mary Anthony, most of all, was an activist in her own right and instrumental to Susan’s ability to devote herself so entirely to her activism.

Anthony family plot

Although the world remembers Susan B. Anthony, her grave appropriately sits within the family fold, surrounded by those who loved and supported her so that she could become the activist she so desired to be.

Susan B. Anthony's Grave

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We stopped this weekend at what I am going to call the Old Carlisle Cemetery, for lack of any consistency in naming I can find.  I had some vague recollection of the fact that the cemetery was there, which I’m going to chalk up to some otherwise forgotten trip with my father in my childhood.  We visited for the “Molly Pitcher” memorial because we had less than an hour to spare to make the five hour drive home.  The first thing I noticed was that there was no name on the three sides of the cemetery that we drove around..  There is no gate.  The sign listing the rules and hours includes no name.  The GPS didn’t know how to find that cemetery.  When I got home, I searched Google to correctly label my photos and discovered that no one agreed on what the place was called.  I’ve seen it referenced as Carlisle Cemetery, Old Cemetery, Carlisle’s Old Graveyard and Old Carlisle Cemetery.  This is a cemetery containing the graves of over 50 Revolutionary War veterans and dozens of veterans of later wars (I saw markers for veterans of the War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, and both World Wars in my walk of less than 1/4 of the cemetery) as well as Carlisle’s most legendary resident, the famous “Molly Pitcher,” but the place has no fixed name.

Detail of Mary Ludwig Hayes McCauley monument

“Molly Pitcher” is actually not a woman’s name, but a nickname that was given to women who carried water to Revolutionary War soldiers on the battlefield. Molly was also a nickname for Mary, which seems to have further confused some of those who encounter the story. Then Mary LudwigHays, the wife of a soldier at the Battle of Monmouth, became the most famous “Molly Pitcher” of the war because she was credited with taking her husband’s place at a cannon when he was wounded. Hays married another man with the surname of McCauley after being widowed. Not everyone agrees that the legends about Hays’ war service are true, but the fact that she received a pension from Pennsylvania in 1822 “for services rendered” rather than, more usually, as a widow of a soldier.

Disagreement on names was the order of the day, because it turns out no one knows how Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley’s final surname was spelled.  The monument lists her as Mary McKolly/McCauley as well as having her married name of Mary Hays and her birth name as Mary Ludwig. Other sources online mention the spellings M’Kolly, McCalla, McCawley, and McAuley. This is not terribly surprising consider that spelling wasn’t standardized in the 18th century, but I had never seen that murkiness carved into a monument. To add to the confusion, I’ve also included a photo of the smaller stone behind the monument which identifies her as Mollie McCauly.

Mollie McCauly


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