Plan a trip for August 26th inspired by suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker

Plan a trip for August 26th

by Olivia Twine

The story of Isabella Beecher Hooker and her times has me fired up. See article I wrote about book by Susan Campbell.  Now it’s time to hit the road and visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford Connecticut. and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame office is located on the bottom floor of Schwartz Hall on the Southern Connecticut State University Campus. Call (203) 392-9007 to arrange for parking and building access.

The Stowe Center has a large collection of Isabella Beecher Hooker items, including letters, diaries and photographs. Most of these are not currently on exhibit, according to collections assistant Anastasia Thibeault, but special research appointments can be scheduled.

The Stowe Center features the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and is near the Mark Twain House and Museum, located on the site of the former Nook Farm, a community of intellectuals where John and Isabella Beecher Hooker resided. Although the Hooker’s house no longer stands, their granddaughter Katharine Seymour Day helped save the Twain and Stowe houses and preserved part of Nook Farm, all of which have become national landmarks. The Day house serves as the Stowe Center library and administrative office.

Nook Farm was conceived in 1853, when Isabella’s husband John Hooker, a descendant of Hartford founder Thomas Hooker, and his brother-in-law Francis Gillette purchased 140 acres of pasture and woodland at the western edge of Hartford. Over the years Hooker and Gillette sold parcels to relatives and friends, including Mark Twain. Noted architects were engaged to design their homes in a wide range of styles.

The Connecticut History website also provides information about Nook Farm and its famous residents. “..Just as its individual personalities were unique, so, too, was the Nook Farm neighborhood. Its grand Victorian homes were open and accessible to each other on pathways winding through the broad estate. The residents would often dine together and enjoy fireside discussions until early hours of the morning. An evening may have starred one of the Clemens girls giving a piano recital or an informal concert by Susan Lee Warner, a superb pianist who helped start the Hartford Philharmonic Orchestra. A ‘Friday Evening Club’ pulled neighborhood pool players to the Twain’s billiards room…”

Visitors included President Ulysses S. Grant, Sarah Orne Jewett, Bret Harte, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Matthew Arnold, and William Dean Howells. The community dwindled after 1891, when financial problems forced Twain to close his house and move to Europe. Stowe died five years later.

Now I’m ready to explore the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the Mark Twain House and Museum, and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame with new appreciation for the contributions of Isabella Beecher Hooker and the Hooker branch of the famous Beecher family.

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Suffrage Centennials wins first prize as nonprofit blog! was showered with attention by New Mexico Press Women at the organization’s annual conference and awards banquet on April 25, 2015 with a first-place award as a non-profit blog. Judges said that the perspectives expressed on Suffrage Centennials represent a “great introduction” to the subject of the women’s suffrage movement and the upcoming centennial celebrations, as well as being “a great topic” in its own right.  NMPW is New Mexico’s largest inclusive media organization.

Suffrage movement history as a focus in the mainstream media is attracting more attention as suffrage centennial celebrations approach. One reason has to do with the publicity associated with the upcoming film, “Suffragette,” from the UK. The New Mexico Press Women award noted as outstanding the coverage by Suffrage Centennials on the “Suffragette” film, as well as the centennial approaching in 2016 observing the death of American suffrage martyr Inez Milholland.

This year, 2015, is the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in August. Suffrage movement history and the associated centennial celebrations takes on increased awareness in the 2016 election cycle, the 2017 centennial of women voting in New York State, and the votes for women national centennial in 2020 when American women will have been voting for 100 years.

SUFFRAGECENTENNIALSlogoADimagesFollow on Facebook page, Twitter, email subscription, and the Quarterly Newsletter. Sign up for email on this web page. Stay up to date with postings, audio podcasts, and videos. Plan for your suffrage centennial event.

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Book rescues Isabella Beecher Hooker from obscurity & opens our eyes to the radical activist who edited Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s speeches!

Isabella Hooker

Pilgrimage: A long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest.

This article by Olivia Twine is a journey into the past to meet Isabella Beecher Hooker, the half sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Our goal is to understand and appreciate generations of activists on whose strong shoulders we stand today. Books like this one enrich our experience when we visit historic homes, museums, and cultural heritage sites as part of upcoming women’s suffrage centennial celebrations from now through 2020, the nation’s suffrage centennial.

Olivia Twine introduces us to Isabella Beecher Hooker by highlighting Susan Campbell’s new book, Tempest-Tossed, The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker (Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 2014).

Olivia recommends visiting the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut in the heart of the Nook Farm neighborhood that was developed by John Hooker and where John and Isabella Beecher Hooker resided. The Connecticut History website provides information about Nook Farm and its famous residents.  Information about Isabella and her times can also be gleaned from a visit to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Isabella Beecher Hookerby Olivia Twine

Many of us heard in school about Harriet Beecher Stowe, but most likely little or nothing about Harriet’s sister, Isabella. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Campbell has opened the door to an extraordinary story in her book, Tempest-Tossed, The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker. This work focuses on the most radical, enigmatic, and unappreciated member of the Beecher family, Isabella.

Campbell engaged a spiritualist medium to contact her subject, who believed in communication with the dead and practiced it regularly. The author shines a light on Isabella’s complicated character, however, without any discernible help from beyond the grave.

The ninth child of the controversial minister Lyman Beecher, Isabella grew up in a household where freewheeling political debate took place at the kitchen table. Although her mother was bedridden and died young, Isabella learned how to present strong views. This was in spite of numerous disagreements with her older half-siblings, who included the later novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, education advocate Catherine Beecher, and the renowned minister Henry Ward Beecher.

Isabella ran counter to Beecher family sentiment regarding the “scandal of the 19th century” involving Henry Ward Beecher, the popular preacher at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Free-love advocate Victoria Woodhull accused Henry Ward Beecher of having an affair with the wife of a parishioner. Woodhull was infuriated by what she viewed as the hypocrisy of Henry’s pious sermons against her own free love position.


Henry Ward BeecherIsabella believed her brother Henry Ward Beecher was guilty and said so publicly. She urged Henry to admit his wrongdoing. Her advice was imparted with love, but it wasn’t appreciated by Harriet, Catherine, nor sister Mary Beecher Perkins, all of whom denied Henry’s guilt and regarded Isabella as traitorous. The case went to trial and ended in a hung jury, nine to three in Henry’s favor.

Henry Ward Beecher’s charm was legendary. President Lincoln described him a great orator. Even divorce proponent Elizabeth Cady Stanton retreated from Isabella when she maintained her allegiance to Woodhull. It wasn’t because Stanton disagreed with Woodhull, but because she believed the controversy would hurt the suffrage movement cause. Isabella wouldn’t back away from the ever-controversial Woodhull and her unconventional views, including Spiritualism.

Isabella married John Hooker, a lawyer, in 1841. At home, the couple read law books aloud and discussed politics. The laws that kept married women from controlling their own money and property were unfair, Isabella insisted, and must be changed. John supported her activism. Later in life, after the death of their daughter Mary, John joined her in the practice of Spiritualism.

Isabella believed wholeheartedly in abolition and universal suffrage, and she fought for both by taking a leading role in the National Woman Suffrage Association spearheaded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Isabella founded the Connecticut Woman’s Suffrage Association and organized the first woman’s rights convention in Connecticut. She was a prolific public speaker and lobbied for the Married Woman’s Property Bill that she introduced to the Connecticut state legislature. It passed in 1877. She also addressed the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of women’s suffrage.


Nevertheless, Isabella felt insignificant next to her sister Harriet. The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was certainly sympathetic to the plight of those in bondage, but the ending of her novel indicated that former slaves should be sent to Africa, a place where most had never been. Isabella disagreed. Her sister Catherine was unmarried but lectured that a woman’s place was to “rule the world by ruling the household.” Isabella loved her own children but admitted that caring for them proved to be exhausting. Between speaking engagements, she took frequent water cures at distant resorts and worried about her parenting skills.

Spiritualism was popular during and after the Civil War when so many young men died in combat. Campbell relates Mark Twain’s description of a holiday party at the Hookers when a séance was underway upstairs. Isabella emerged brandishing an ax and charged downstairs in such a threatening manner that family members questioned her sanity and carved out a distance from Isabella. Despite her family’s opprobrium, Isabella continued to work with the Connecticut Woman’s Suffrage Association. She died January 25, 1907, two weeks after suffering a stroke.

Susan Campbell paints a revealing picture of the Beecher family that she says represented a fascinating journey during her eleven-year journey as a researcher. The Beechers were prolific writers and once the code of their handwriting was cracked, Campbell says an amazing world opened up to her.

Isabella caused quite a commotion in her own family which sadly led to her marginalization. Campbell points out how other early activists, like Isabella, have also been overlooked in the waves that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony created. Susan Campbell does us an enormous service of not only bringing Isabella to our attention, but also filling in our understanding about the deeds and misdeeds of yet another early suffrage activist whose tireless dedication and persistence led to the opening up of opportunities for women today.

I knew nothing about Isabella Beecher Hooker before I read Susan Campbell’s book. I’m ready now to explore the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Connecticut and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Ohio with a new appreciation. This is a tremendous contribution because Susan Campbell has succeeded brilliantly in informing us about this extraordinary activist as well as bringing Isabella’s spirit to our awareness from The Other Side.

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1915 suffrage centennial poster reprint available through National Women’s History Project!

1915 suffrage posterThe National Women’s History Project ( has just published a reprint of the 1915 suffrage election poster which brings to light the intense Votes for Women campaigns in four states that year: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. The poster is 11 x 17  inches and of considerable visual and historic interest. The poster has been reproduced with permission from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. See the gift shop section of the National Women’s History Project to order. Poster reprints are $25 in this limited edition. When you visit the gift shop of the NWHP, you’ll find many gift items that are unique to the NWHP and treasures in their own right. Bring a smile to the suff buffs in your family and among your friends. The year 2015 is a centennial year, and there are other suffrage centennial events and observances to come. New York State celebrates its 1915 suffrage victory in 2017, and of course there’s the national suffrage centennial in 2020.

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Full steam ahead for New York’s 2017 women’s suffrage centennial!

New York State is getting ready for its 2017 suffrage centennial on Vimeo.

Visualizing a suffrage centennial celebration is the first step in actualizing it. And it’s not merely an imaginative process. New York City is actively engaged in doing its part. There’s an exhibit at New York City’s Municipal Archives through June 2015; a call from the New York State Museum for artifacts to be on display at the 2017 exhibit, “Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial”; and a celebration of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 200th birthday on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at the Great Hall at Cooper Union with an artistic interpretation of the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments. This is just the beginning. Buckle your seat belts. There’s more to come. Plan events and celebrations. Support the creation of a funded state centennial commission. And keep us posted about what you’re up to!

imagesFollow on Facebook page, Twitter, email subscription, and the Quarterly Newsletter. Sign up for email on this web page. Stay up to date with postings, audio podcasts, and videos. Plan for your suffrage centennial event.

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