March is Women’s History Month and what a month it is.
March is Women’s History Month and what a month it is. It was a long and arduous effort beginning officially in 1848 with the Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls. At this event a document called the Declaration of Sentiments was signed by those that attended. Wyoming was the first state in 1890 to grant all women the right to vote, while New York State was 13th in 1917 to ratify the right for woman to vote. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was added to the U. S. Constitution giving woman the right to vote.
Does this mean that women did not make any contribution to their communities? Absolutely not, in Palmyra we have a number of women that made a great mark on the lives, safety and, progress of America. This began with the first school teacher, Miss D. Boughton who was the driving force for the name of our community, Palmyra. The Queen of Palmyra, Syria was named Zenobia, and her name is now used on the yearbook for the Pal-Mac High School as well as the Masonic Lodge an all men’s fraternal organization.
In 1828 a young women and her siblings became orphans and were raised by community members, the young lady, Clarissa Hall, grew up to be a fine young lady and attracted a handsome entrepreneur. They would marry in 1849 and Clarissa would finally become known as the “Grand American Dame” traveling throughout Europe and mixing with kings and queens, emperors and empresses. In 1854 Mrs. Clarissa Hall Jerome would have a daughter named Jenny who married Lord Randolph Churchill and became Lady Churchill. She would soon have a son named Winston and the rest is history.
Hannah Sexton wife of Pliny Sexton was a great help on the Underground Railroad for many years. She worked side by side with her husband and took an active part in this movement helping many freedom seekers safely on their way to freedom. In 1882, Mrs. Harriet (Pliny T.) Sexton became Vice President of the National Bank of Palmyra. Her father- in-law, Pliny Sexton, died leaving a vacancy and Harriet seemed the perfect choice. Amazing! Let’s not forget Dr. Harriet Adams who lived next store to Hannah and Pliny Sexton on East Main Street. Dr. Harriet Adams began her medical practice in this same location and continued for 30 years.
Let’s talk about Lavinia Chase a woman from Palmyra and daughter of Dr. Durfee Chase, sister to Army Lt. Winfield Scott Chase, and a very strong Temperance Society member. Lavinia moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as a translator in the United States Congress. Lavinia saw a terrible wrong to our soldiers and sailors as they came out of the Veteran’s hospital and home and went into the many taverns that were strategically placed nearby to attract them. Lavinia was incensed and felt that treating our veterans like this was unacceptable. She began to meet with officers and discuss a place for the veterans and active soldiers to go besides these taverns. It was important to have a place that had home cooked meals, clean beds, a house mother to care for them, interesting speakers and music. This was the beginning of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marine Club. After the Civil War veterans began what was called “Tents” and Lavinia Chase was the name sake of Tent 76. Then we have Mayor Kay Davin who prompted Palmyra’s feature in the National Geographic Magazine of June 1977.
Page 2 of 2 - These are incredible women who have done incredible things. By no means is this all of them, but it is a great place to start. Don’t forget our program at the Alling Coverlet 122 William Street, March 21, Thursday, at 7 p.m. on the Big Read topic, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society call 597-6981 for information or tours.