June 15: Honoring Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan Culture Keeper

  June 15, 1999 was officially declared “Gladys Tantaquidegon Day” by Connecticut Governor John Rowland in honor of the 100th birthday of a remarkable medicine woman who became one of the most influential cultural and spiritual leaders of the Mohegan Nation. Born on the Mohegan reservation in southeastern Connecticut in 1899, Gladys Iola Tantaquidegon was…

June 6: Seconds Before Jumping, A D-Day Message From Home

  In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Private Robert C. Hillman became one of over 13,000 American paratroopers to leap out of a plane over Normandy as part of the “D-Day” invasion of occupied France — one of the largest offensives of World War II. A member of the legendary 101st Airborne…

May 28: Preparing Connecticut Women for Full Citizenship

  On May 21, 1919, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of legislation that would give American women the right to vote — legislation that would eventually become the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Even though the legislation still had to be approved by the U.S. Senate and ratified by 3/4…

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 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 20: The Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution

  In the late 19th century, following the centennial of American Independence in 1876, numerous civic organizations and heritage societies sprang up across the United States in response to increased national interest in early American history.  In many cases, however, civically-inclined women met with frustration when they were barred from joining prominent clubs founded by…

January 19: Connecticut’s First African-American Female Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of eleven children born to Willis James, a former slave who had successfully escaped from a Virginia plantation via the Underground Railroad.  As a child, Anna’s family moved from Hartford to Old Saybrook, where she graduated high school and, as…

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…