Celebrating Dutchess County Women!

We maintain our March 2022 Facebook daily celebration of local women as a permanent exhibition here. It is never too late to support DCHS in our efforts to give a platform to the voices and talents of Dutchess County women. Thank you to our supporters!

[ditty id=23340] A charter member of the Dutchess County Historical Society, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds was a writer, genealogist, preservationist, editor and more. In addition to editing the DCHS Yearbook for over twenty years, she also conducted her own research and made significant contributions to our understanding of Dutchess County history. At the time of her passing in 1943, she was eulogized by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the most knowledgeable student of, and contributor to, the county’s history. Today DCHS presents the Helen Wilkinson Reynolds Award annually to a local historian that is an exemplar of the necessary and accurate search for the historical truth. It is only fitting that we begin Women’s History Month by recognizing Helen’s efforts as essential to the generations of men and women who have followed in her footsteps and to the modern existence of DCHS. Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 4.22.41 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 4.22.48 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 4.26.39 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 4.23.00 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 4.23.09 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.55.40 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.56.06 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.55.48 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.56.13 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.55.56 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.56.21 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.56.29 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-14 at 3.56.39 PM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.51.54 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.52.07 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.52.18 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.52.31 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.52.40 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.52.49 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.53.13 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.53.23 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.53.33 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.53.45 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.53.54 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.54.04 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.54.15 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.54.29 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.54.42 AM Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 7.54.59 AM Screen Shot 2022-04-02 at 11.53.58 AM

In 2020, on the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote nationally, we launched the permanent, evolving exhibition Women’s Voices & Talents, as a way to celebrate some of the many remarkable women of Dutchess County.

During women’s history month in March 2022, we turned up the volume, building off of the work of Joyce C. Ghee and Stephanie Mauri that appeared in Volume 82 of the DCHS Yearbook, 1999-2000 edition under the heading Do-It-Yourself Women’s History Tour of Dutchess County. The article is to the right.

Through Facebook, we featured a different profile each day with a photo and synopsis which stands here as a permanent exhibition. The stories of these women give us a glimpse of the extraordinary contributions of Dutchess County women.

Helen Wilkinson Reynolds

We begin our Women’s History Month spotlights with Helen Wilkinson Reynolds. A charter member of the Dutchess County Historical Society, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds was a writer, genealogist, preservationist, editor and more.  In addition to editing the DCHS Yearbook for over twenty years, she also conducted her own research and made significant contributions to our understanding of Dutchess County history.  At the time of her passing in 1943, she was eulogized by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the most knowledgeable student of, and contributor to, the county’s history. Today DCHS presents the Helen Wilkinson Reynolds Award annually to a local historian that is an exemplar of the necessary and accurate search for the historical truth.  It is only fitting that we begin Women’s History Month by recognizing Helen’s efforts as essential to the generations of men and women who have followed in her footsteps and to the modern existence of DCHS.

Eleanor Roosevelt

The contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt through her life of public service are too plentiful to even be listed.  Some of her formal titles include First Lady of New York (1929-1933), First Lady of the United States (1933-1945), Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (1946-1952), Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (1947-1953), and Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (1961-1962). Her roles as writer, teacher, journalist, civic leader, and businesswoman advanced the causes of countless organizations dedicated to women’s rights and civil rights.  Today, Eleanor remains a major fixture in Dutchess County, as people from around the world travel to visit Hyde Park’s Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site at Val-Kill where she lived following President Franklin Roosevelt’s death, as well as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, site of the historic “Springwood” home, Eleanor’s papers, and the gravesite of Franklin and Eleanor.  Both locations are operated by the National Park Service.

Lucy Maynard Salmon

As the first faculty member of the Vassar College History Department in 1887, Lucy Maynard Salmon was a pioneer who made meaningful contributions to a number of county, state, and national efforts.  Her research-based approach to teaching history using documents, diaries, and artifacts became a hallmark of the Vassar student experience, and her support of suffragist causes both at Vassar and in the community contributed to the shift that ultimately resulted in women receiving the right to vote, first in New York and then throughout the United States.  Lucy was an early member of DCHS who impressed upon her colleagues the necessity of doing one’s own careful homework, and contributed to the Poughkeepsie community through her role as regent of the Poughkeepsie chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and as the first woman to gain a committee position on the Poughkeepsie Chamber of Commerce.

Sadie Peterson Delaney

An early supporter of women’s suffrage, Delaney left Poughkeepsie to study at the 135th Street Branch of the NYC Library System, now the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. In 1924 she took the position of librarian at Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital where she became a pioneer in the field of bibliotherapy and successfully applied it to returning World War 1 soldiers.  Today, Sadie’s many contributions are remembered with the Sadie Peterson Delaney African Roots Library located at the Family Partnership Center in Poughkeepsie, which is named in her honor.

Caroline Morgan Clowes

Caroline Morgan Clowes was nationally known and celebrated during her lifetime as an accomplished animal and landscape painter. Depicting Dutchess County scenes from her LaGrange backyard studio, her life and works have been recently rediscovered and many consider her to be the finest animal painter of her time. Her painting “Cattle at the Brook” was prominently displayed in the main gallery at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.  Her legacy continues to be explored by DCHS and she will be honored with a gallery exhibition of her works at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie in November and December, 2022.

Annette Innis Young

An eighty-year resident of Dutchess County, Annette Innis Young’s appreciation of history and considerable generosity guaranteed that Poughkeepsie’s Locust Grove Estate, once home to Samuel Morse, would be protected as a museum and its considerable land preserved for public enjoyment.  Purchased, modernized, and expanded by Annette’s parents William and Martha at the turn of the 20th century, Locust Grove was one of a number of properties, works of art, and homes that Annette donated to be protected. Today, Annette’s legacy can be seen throughout the Italianate mansion, landscaped gardens, art exhibits, and welcome center on the property, which are all open seasonally.

Sarah Gibson Blanding

Serving as the first female President of Vassar College from 1946-1964, Sarah Gibson Blanding oversaw significant development to the campus, academic programs, and financial stability during her tenure.  Beyond Vassar, Sarah served on a number of high-profile commissions and boards, including President Harry Truman’s Commission on Higher Education.  After a successful early career in Kentucky, her home state, she became the first female Dean at Cornell University at the age of 30 before moving to Poughkeepsie and making her mark on Dutchess County and the nation.

Mary Lasker

As a major advocate for and supporter of medical research, Mary Lasker played a significant role in 20th century efforts to fight cancer and spread the anti-smoking message across the country. Through her philanthropy, Mary contributed to the growth of the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health and received countless awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.  Today, the highly competitive Lasker Award is given for medical research.  Her Dutchess County impact also consisted of beautification efforts including the gardens of her estate Smithfield, as well as along Route 22 in the village of Amenia

Deborah Dows

An accomplished horsewoman, Deborah Dows devoted her life to maintaining the characteristics of rural life that she valued. One of the few female students accepted at the Spanish Riding School, Deborah turned the “south lands” of the Dows family estate, “Foxhollow,” into a successful, respected riding academy and horse farm.  Her aim was to use horsemanship to teach respect and love for the land and its animals, both wild and tame. This approach was successful in building character, leadership, responsibility, and confidence in her students. Beyond horseback riding, she welcomed individuals to work at Southlands when in need of sanctuary. Over the years people from all walks of life would come and go. All that was required was to put in an honest day of hard work and in return, they were guaranteed a substantial meal, a warm place to rest, and a small stipend. Today, the Rhinebeck property is home to The Southlands Foundation, which continues Deborah’s mission to cultivate respect and love for the land and its animals through education, conservation, and outdoor recreation.

Amy Pearce Ver Nooy

A longtime editor of the Dutchess County Historical Society Yearbook, Amy Pearce Ver Nooy made significant contributions to the study of Dutchess County history throughout her life.  Having taken over the role of editor from Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, Amy also made significant contributions to writing and research through her work, much of which is now available in digital format at www.dchsny.org/yearbook.  Beyond her role as secretary and editor for DCHS, she was associated with the Adriance Memorial Library for over thirty years, serving as the local history librarian and also as the library’s Assistant Director from 1950 until her retirement in 1958. She is pictured here at a meeting of the Dutchess County Historical Society at the Nelson House in May 1961.  From left to right, Baltus Van Kleeck, Amy Pearce Ver Nooy, Albertina Traver, and Dr. Henry Noble Mac Cracken.

Eunice Hatfield Smith

Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, Eunice Hatfield Smith used her painting skills not only to create art, but also to capture Dutchess County history.  Known for her landscapes, portraiture, and pulp magazine art covers, she often created paintings that depicted Poughkeepsie prior to urban renewal, and her works have since become part of the legacy of streets no longer in existence.  In October 1934, Eunice assembled with a group of artists under the leadership of Thomas Barrett to put on a painting exhibition in Poughkeepsie.  Held at the Luckey Platt department store, this event featured a considerable number of women artists and resulted in the creation of the Dutchess County Art Association, which continues to thrive to this day.  To learn more about Eunice Hatfield Smith and to see her works held in the DCHS collection, visit https://dchs.com/hatfield/.

Frannie Reese

As a dedicated defender and protector of the environment, Frances “Franny” Reese, made enormous contributions to preserving the landscape of the Hudson River and the valley that surrounds it.  Her efforts to protect Storm King Mountain from being transformed into a large hydroelectric powerplant in the 1960s proved to be a landmark victory against industry and a catalyst for the creation of environmental groups throughout the region including Scenic Hudson, which she co-founded.   As chairwoman of Scenic Hudson from 1966 to 1984, Franny contributed to the shaping of national environmental policy such as the Clean Water Act of 1977, and to the creation of many parks and preserves across the region.  Today, several public parks are named in her honor including Franny Reese State Park in Highland, and Franny Reese Park in Wappingers Falls.  A dedicated community advocate, her contributions can also be seen at Marist College, where she was a Trustee for many years and a founding board member of Marist’s Hudson River Valley Institute.

Daisey Suckley

Born and raised in Rhinebeck’s historic Queen Anne Victorian style home “Wilderstein,” Daisy Suckley played a significant role in President Franklin Roosevelt’s life, as both his cousin and close confidante.  Known for having given FDR his famous dog Fala and for assisting with the planning of Hyde Park’s “Top Cottage, Daisy’s closeness to FDR provided her unique access to one of the most transformative periods in American history.  She helped to set up the FDR Library and remained there as an archivist until 1963 when she shifted her focus to family and returned to Wilderstein.  Today, Wilderstein Historic Site is open to the public and offers cultivated grounds and tours of the historic house.  To learn more, visit www.wilderstein.org.

Margaret Livingston Chanler Aldrich

Growing up at the Barrytown estate Rokeby along with her numerous siblings as a member of the prominent Astor family, Margaret Livingston Chanler Aldrich impacted several of the major events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in meaningful ways.  Her heralded service as a nurse with the American Red Cross saw her travel to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines during active conflicts, and her leadership role in the Women’s Suffrage movement led to her becoming treasurer for the Woman’s Suffrage Party in New York and president of the Protestant Episcopal Women’s Suffrage Association.  She recounted her experiences in her 1958 memoir, Family Vista.  In the 1890s, Margaret purchased the Rokeby estate from her siblings where she resided for many years until her death in 1963.

Margaret Sanger

As we continue our month of highlighting Dutchess County women of history, DCHS would like to offer special thanks to the supporters of this important work. Please consider joining this group with a $100 gift to sponsor Women’s History Month at DCHS. Donate at: https://dchs.com/celebrate-women/

 Nina Mattern McCullough

Raised in Poughkeepsie and a graduate of the Poughkeepsie High School class of 1900, Nina McCulloch Mattern contributed to the Women’s Suffrage movement by speaking at suffrage events around the county including Women’s Independence Day at Eastman Park in 1914 and as part of the Poughkeepsie Suffrage Party kickoff in early 1917. Beyond wanting women to have the right to vote, she wanted women to be treated equally and to have control over their own destiny. During World War 1 she turned her attention to the war effort, leading the effort to form a canning club. When the global flu pandemic, better known as the Spanish Flu, struck in 1918, she joined the call for nurses and was put in charge of the Masonic Temple Hospital where she herself contracted the flu and succumbed to the illness.

Clarissa and Clara Pritchard

Twin sisters Clara and Clarissa Pritchard were born in the village of Tivoli in Red Hook in a house that still stands. Following in the footsteps of their mother Mary Ellen Hoover Pritchard, who in 1903 became the first woman in Dutchess County to pass the bar, both Clara and Clarissa became the youngest women lawyers in New York State, having studied at Albany Law School and graduating in 1913. Though both Clara and her mother Mary Ellen died very young, the impact of the three Pritchard women on the practice of law made them pioneers in a practice previously available only to men.  To learn more about Clarissa and Clara Pritchard and other Red Hook women, visit the Red Hook Women’s Suffrage Trail page at www.dchsny.org/RHWST.

Sarah Delano Roosevelt

The mother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sara Delano Roosevelt was born in Newburgh to a wealthy family and traveled the globe with her parents and siblings before marrying James Roosevelt and moving to the Hyde Park estate, “Springwood.”  Throughout FDR’s tenure as New York Governor and then United States President, Sara hosted countless dignitaries as guests at Springwood and maintained a very active role in the lives of Franklin, Eleanor, and their children.  In 1927, she funded the building of the Hyde Park Library as a memorial to her husband James, and upon her passing was buried in the cemetery of the St. James Episcopal Church on Route 9 in Hyde Park.

Dutchess of York

Also known as Mary of Modena, Mary (or Maria) Beatrice D’Este was the Duchess of York from 1673-1685 and is the namesake of Dutchess County.  Upon her husband James’s ascension to the throne, Mary became Queen of England, a title she held until James was deposed and both were exiled to France in 1689.  Although she never visited the county named in her honor, it has remained a major part of her legacy for nearly 350 years. Based on her leadership her name has been tied, fittingly, to the countless women who have been born in and advanced Dutchess County through the years, just a small sample of whom we have been able to feature with this effort throughout March.

Dr. Grace Kimball

Born in New England, Dr. Grace Kimball’s life plan was greatly influenced by a mission trip to Turkey that inspired her to both continue helping others and pursue a career in medicine.  She came to Poughkeepsie in 1896 as the Assistant Physician for Vassar College, a position she held until 1900 when the success of her private practice required her to leave Vassar.  Beginning in 1899 and continuing for the next forty-one years, Dr. Kimball served as President of the Poughkeepsie YWCA, a responsibility she paired with service on the Poughkeepsie Board of Health and continued full-time work as a staff doctor at multiple hospitals including St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie.  Beyond health causes, Grace also was the head of Census and was a strong supporter of Women’s Suffrage, serving as President of the National League of Women’s Service in 1917.  Her contributions to fields that were largely dominated by men resulted in recognition including Kimball Road in Poughkeepsie being named in her honor.

Laura Wylie

A graduate and valedictorian of Vassar College class of 1877, Laura Johnson Wylie continued her education before returning to Vassar as an instructor of English in 1895 and quickly became the chair of the department.  As suffrage movements grew during the 1910s Laura was at the forefront, founding the Equal Suffrage League in 1909 along with other Vassar professors and serving as its President through the 1920s when it became known as Women’s City and County Club.  Her home, which she shared with her partner and fellow Vassar professor Gertrude Buck, was well known as a place for enlightened discussions about education, politics, and social topics of the day, hosting Vassar students weekly for many years.

Margaret DeMott Brown

An accomplished photographer, Margaret DeMott Brown had a particular interest in pictorial photography.  In 1918, she set up a photography studio in Poughkeepsie and began contributing photographs to the DCHS Yearbook, including those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with whom she established a friendship.  In addition to FDR, Margaret had a close friendship with founding DCHS member Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, whose acclaimed publications “Dutchess County Doorways and Other Examples of Period-Work in Wood” and “Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley Before 1776” featured Margaret’s work.

Charlotte Cunneen-Hackett

The daughter of a prominent attorney and former New York State Attorney General, Charlotte Cunneen-Hackett followed in the family business and became an attorney after initially having been trained as a teacher.  Dutchess County has benefited from her many acts of philanthropy including the creation of the Cunneen-Hackett Charitable Trust in 1968 and the gift of the Hackett family home to the Boy Scouts, known today as Hyde Park’s Hackett Hill Park.  Among the many projects supported by the Cunneen-Hackett Charitable Trust is the restoration of two historic buildings on Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie that previously housed the Vassar Home for Aged Men and the Vassar Brothers Institute.  Today the two impressive properties are home to the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center, which supports cultural and arts programming throughout the county.

Elise Kinkead

A lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie, Elise Kinkead was a member of the Kinkead family that resided at the Maple Grove and Southwood Estates that bordered the current Route 9 in the vicinity of the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.  While Elise lived on the western side of the road at Southwood, she eventually inherited the Maple Grove property across the street and used it to entertain guests. When an arsonist set fire to Maple Grove in the 1980s, Elise, then in declining health, insisted that the house be stabilized and preserved, and paid for the immediate work to keep the house standing.  Thanks to her initial efforts, the restoration of Maple Grove remains an ongoing work in progress to return the house to its 1850s splendor.  To learn more, visit the Maple Grove website.

Lucille Pattison

A lifelong public servant from the Town of Hyde Park, Lucille Pattison made history as New York State’s and Dutchess County’s first female County Executive in 1978. Prior to that, she served in the Dutchess County Legislature, spending time as both the Majority Leader and Minority Leader at different points during her tenure.  As County Executive, she not only improved the efficiency and integrity of the office, she also added new dimensions to the post such as the Dutchess County Executive’s Arts Award. Upon retirement, Lucille continued her life of service to the community as a trustee for several hospitals in the county, as a tutor for youths in need, and by working with the county’s Family Court system as a mediator.

Lee Miller

Born in Poughkeepsie in 1907, Elizabeth “Lee” Miller would become world-renowned as a model, photographer, and World War II photojournalist.  Highlights of Lee’s varied pursuits include posing for the cover of Vogue Magazine and for other fashion photographers, studying with surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray, and traversing war-torn Europe capturing photographs that uniquely displayed the horrors of war on both people and places across the continent for Vogue Magazine. Throughout her life, Lee was sought after for her eclectic talents and was not afraid to put herself in the middle of the action, be it through her impressive social network or her penchant for making strong visual statements.

Hallie Flanagan

Through her innovative approach to theater, Hallie Flanagan made her first major contributions to Dutchess County with her work developing an experimental theater program at Vassar College in the mid-1920s.  Her work in theater earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship, the first woman to do so, and enabled her to study theater throughout Europe, an effort which culminated in a book based on her travels, “Shifting Scenes of the Modern European Theater.”  During the Great Depression, Hallie was selected by President Franklin Roosevelt to lead the Federal Theater Project, a branch of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), creating jobs for struggling artists and crafts workers and bringing theater to Americans who had never seen it previously.

Irene Kilmer Wilcox

Born in the Town of Milan, Irene Kilmer Wilcox’s roots in the area of northern Dutchess County can be traced as far back as the early 1700s.  Through several significant philanthropic contributions, the scope of Irene’s efforts served to modernized, preserve, and conserve Milan through a variety of projects.  Selling her family’s historic farm property, she used the proceeds of the sale to purchase land and construct the Wilcox Memorial Town Hall, built to match the architectural style of the historic 1838 Rowe Methodist Church, which she also paid to restore. Additionally, Irene gifted the 615-acre Wilcox Memorial Park, named for her husband and son who predeceased her, to the town as a public space that continues to offer a variety of reaction and outdoor activities to this day.

Cecilia Magill and Lucy Graves

Cecilia Bostic Magill (left) was a lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie, active with the Catherine Street Community Center as a board member and director, the AME Zion Church, and the Dutchess County Historical Society, among other organizations. Lucy Graves (right) lived for a short time in Poughkeepsie and was director of the Catherine Street Center in the 1930s and 1940s, but her influence was felt well beyond the years she lived here. Graves was involved with Magill in a successful challenge to the discriminatory hiring practices of Dutchess Manufacturing and Schatz Federal Bearing during World War Two. Their story is included in a profile of Magill’s father, Sebie Bostic at DCHS Virtual Event Space.

Catharyna Brett

Daughter of prominent early settler Francis Rombouts, Catharyna Rombout Brett, known later as Madam Brett, holds the prominent distinction of being one of the first and only women to manage her own land and business affairs during her era.  As heir to 30,000 acres of the Rombout Patent in southern Dutchess County, Catharyna rented and sold lands, oversaw businesses, and is regarded as having been host to prominent Wappinger tribal leader Daniel Nimham.  Today the Madam Brett Homestead in Beacon, which includes the original 1709 house, is preserved and maintained by the Melzingah Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and is open periodically for tours.  To learn more visit the Madam Brett Homestead website.

Amy Spingarn

Our final spotlight for Women’s History Month is Amy Spingarn. A strong supporter of a number of national movements during her lifetime, Amy Spingarn was also an important contributor to the local community of Amenia in northeastern Dutchess County, while living at the estate Troutbeck with her husband Joel.  In the 1910s, Amy was a leader in the Women’s Suffrage movement and later served on the board of the NAACP following the death of her husband, who had been that organization’s Chairman of the Board.  Amy was also a poet and artist, well known for her paintings of African American cultural figures.