May 20: Catharine Beecher Opens Hartford Female Seminary

  Today in 1823, the first classes were held at the Hartford Female Seminary, a revolutionary new school for girls founded by author and education pioneer Catharine Beecher. One of the few extant images of the Hartford Female Seminary’s building on Pratt Street. Born into the wealthy and influential Beecher family in 1800, Catharine Beecher…

May 15: “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley Checks Into Danbury Prison

  Leona Helmsley was one of the most infamous celebrity billionaires of late 20th century New York, a hotel and real estate magnate who gained national notoriety for her reportedly tyrannical treatment of her staff.   The wife of hotelier Harry Helmsley, Leona became the face of a marketing campaign that cast her as a “queen”…

May 12: Katharine Hepburn born in Hartford

  Today in 1907, film star Katherine Hepburn was born in Hartford.  Widely considered to be one of the greatest film and theater actresses in American history, Hepburn holds the record for the most Academy Awards ever won by an actor or actress (four) and starred in over 80 feature films, TV shows, and stage…

May 5: Mary Kies Becomes First Woman to Receive a U.S. Patent

  On this day in 1809, Mary Kies of Killingly, Connecticut became the first woman in American history to obtain a patent.  Kies’ invention was described as “a new and useful improvement in weaving straw with silk or thread.” Little is known about Kies or the specifics of her patent, which was destroyed in 1836…

February 13: Dorothy Hamill Goes for the Gold

  On this day in 1976, 19-year-old ice skater Dorothy Hamill captivated audiences worldwide with her masterful, gold-medal-winning performance at the 1976 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.  Unbeknownst to her at the time, her routine would catapult her to international stardom and set her on a path to becoming one of the most beloved U.S….

January 12: Mary Townsend Seymour, Civil Rights Champion

  Born in Hartford in 1873, lifelong civil rights activist Mary Townsend lost both her parents at the age of 15, and was adopted into the family of local black activist and Civil War veteran Lloyd Seymour.  A few years later, she married one of his sons, Frederick Seymour, and the newlyweds settled in the…

January 4: Mary Goodrich Jenson, Connecticut’s First Female Pilot

  In the heady days of early American aviation, when tales of plucky pilots and ingenious innovators were a dime a dozen, few pilots stood out from the crowd as much as Mary Goodrich Jenson, the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the state of Connecticut.  Born in Hartford in 1907, young Mary…

January 1: “The Red Spy Queen” Born in New Milford

  Today in 1908, one of the most high-profile American-born Soviet spies of the 20th century was born in New Milford, Connecticut.  Elizabeth Bentley was born to a middle-class family — a dry-goods sellers and a schoolteacher — and by several accounts was a clever and intellectually bright young women who seemed to have trouble…

December 25: Florence Griswold and the Lyme Art Colony

    On this day in 1850, Florence Griswold was born into one of Old Lyme’s most prominent families, the youngest daughter of wealthy ship captain Robert Griswold. Not long after Florence was born, the family’s fortunes began to change, as the onset of the Civil War (and its many naval blockades) and the decline…

November 5: Ella Grasso, First Female Governor

  Born to Italian immigrants in 1919, Ella Rosa Giovanna Oliva Tambussi grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood of first and second-generation Americans in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  Her parents, determined to invest in a better future for their daughter, saved up enough money to send Ella to the prestigious Chaffee School in Windsor.  Afterwards, she…