The Insanity of Inequality

In 1851, the state of Illinois opened its first hospital for the mentally ill. The state legislature passed a law to protect people from being committed against his or her will. The law required a public hearing before that person was committed. With one exception, a husband could have his wife committed without either a public hearing or her consent. All the law required was “the permission of the asylum superintendent” and one doctor who agreed with the diagnosis. In the summer of 1860, Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard (1816-1897) was a victim of that law. Such was the insanity of inequality.  Early Life Betsy Parsons Ware was born in Ware, Massachusetts on December 28, 1816, to Lucy Parsons Ware and Reverend Samuel Ware. The oldest of three children, she was the only daughter. She changed her name to Elizabeth as a teenager. Her father, a Calvinist minister, made sure all his children were well-educated. Elizabeth studied French, algebra, and the new classics at the Amherst Female Seminary. She became a teacher. Elizabeth fell ill during the 1835 winter holidays. Doctors treated her with emetics, purges, and bleeding for “brain fever.” But her symptoms (headaches and feeling delirious) continued. Her father […]

A tiny Crack in Male-dominated Science

In the 1850s, a natural philosopher (amateur scientist) studied the effects of the sun’s heat. Hers were early, perhaps even the first experiments ever done on Earth’s greenhouse effect. Despite the limitations 19th century society put on Eunice Newton Foote, she made a tiny crack in male-dominated science. Early life In 1819 in Goshen, Connecticut, Isaac Newton Jr. and Thirza Newton had a daughter they named Eunice. Eunice, her six sisters, five brothers, and her parents moved to Bloomington, New York. At seventeen, she went to Troy Female Seminary. Being a student there allowed her to study the basics of chemistry and biology at a local science college. On August 12, 1841, she married Elisha Foote. They lived in Seneca Falls and later in Saratoga, New York. They had two daughters. Women’s Rights While living in Seneca Falls, Eunice Newton attended the first Woman’s Rights Convention on July 19-20, 1848. She signed the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The document demanded equality with men in social status and legal rights. Research In the 1850s, Foote conducted her experiments. She used an air pump, four mercury thermometers, and two glass cylinders. She put a thermometer in each […]

The First Female Olympic Champion to Strike Gold

The first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece, April 6–15, 1896. Women athletes could not participate for ninety-four years. Hélène de Pourtalès of Switzerland became the first female athlete to compete at the Olympic Games and the first female Olympic Champion to strike gold. About Hélène Hélène de Pourtalès (pronounced El-én day Por-tá-lay) was born in New York, New York on April 28, 1868 to Henry Barbe and Mary Lorillard Barbey.They named her Helen Barbey.  Her father was an affluent financier. Her mother came from a family whose wealth came from a tobacco empire. Helen inherited her passion for horses and love of sailing. Her uncle, Pierre Lorillard IV, lived in Newport, Rhode Island and helped make it a yachting center. He was also a Thoroughbred racehorse owner. On April 25, 1891, Helen married Hermon Alexander, Count von Pourtalès, (1847–1904). He was a captain of the Cuirassiers of the Guard, a heavy cavalry regiment of the Royal Prussian Army. She became known as Hélène de Pourtalès. Hélène had dual citizenship, Swiss and American. Her husband had dual Swiss-German nationality. They had three daughters. In 1896 Europe’s most prominent families had personal flotillas. Among them were members of the […]