Women’s history has long been written on the leaves of diaries, penned across the pages of letters and scribbled on the backs of photographs.Their stories — even those of bravery or turmoil — tend to be shared in family lore, not chronicled in multivolume biographies.
Nonetheless, while our founding mothers may not be documented in piles of books the way our founding fathers are, “It’s clear that most of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, fought the Revolution and formed the government couldn’t have done it without the women. And it was the women who, by insisting that the men come together for civilized conversations in the early Washington dinner parties, helped keep the fragile new country from falling into fatal partisan discord.
“The women made the men behave” wrote Cokie Roberts in Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.
We can glean from the words of Roberts that the influence of women in shaping our society and our history was profound. Over the years, women have fought relentlessly to break down barriers, to break records and to pave the way for future generations. The courage and determination of the women who came before us informs us all and deserves our recognition.
The Hudson Valley is rich with the history of pioneering women who once lived or traveled through this extraordinary region, subsequently leaving their mark on our nation. Our premier first lady, Martha Washington, served as hostess to dignitaries and inspiration to troops at Hasbrouck House in Newburgh during the Revolutionary War.
Preacher and abolitionist Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Isabella in what is now Ulster County. Abolitionist and suffragist Lucretia Mott attended school at the Nine Partners Boarding School in Millbrook. Sarah Bernhardt appeared at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie and Susan B. Anthony spoke on more than one occasion at the Hudson Opera House in Hudson.
Vassar College, which opened its doors to the first class of young women in 1865, became the first women’s college to have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, a reflection of its academic rigor and innovative faculty, many of whom were pioneering women in their fields.
In celebration of Women’s History Month and in conjunction with the Mid-Hudson Library System, our office is proud to present a special new booklet that tells the stories of 10 remarkable women who made their homes in Dutchess or Columbia counties from the 18th-21st centuries. They were artists and activists, elected officials and educators. One woman was born into slavery. Two were married to American Presidents.
Their stories are part of our region’s history, New York state’s history and American history. Their stories are our stories.
Please visit your library and ask your librarian for a copy of Women’s History in the Hudson Valley: Ten Stories from Dutchess and Columbia Counties to read the amazing contributions these women have made to our community and country.
Also, check with your library to learn about local events that will celebrate the women of our region and Women’s History Month this March.