May 20: A “Man’s Education” at a 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. Born into the wealthy and influential Beecher family in 1800, Catharine Beecher wholly devoted herself to advancing the education and betterment of young women after her fiancé died…

May 5: The First Woman to Receive a U.S. Patent

  Even though the U.S. Patent Act of 1790 allowed American citizens to apply for patents regardless of gender, women were discouraged from doing so due to local coverture laws that made it difficult, if not impossible, for a married woman to own property and titles independently of her husband. But today in 1809, nearly…

March 11: She Taught a Man’s World How to Build a Business

  When Beatrice Fox Auerbach became president of Hartford’s G. Fox & Company in 1938, in an era where there were scarcely any female retail executives in the United States, neither she nor any of the popular department store’s board members expected her to remain in the position for very long. But instead of stepping…

February 20: Patriotic Connecticut Women Organize For “God, Home, and Country”

  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 einclined women met with frustration when they were barred from joining prominent clubs founded by men. In 1890, after…

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

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of 11 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: Connecticut’s First Female Pilot’s Final Journey

  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 Spy “Queen” Who Triggered the Red Scare of the 1950s

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 making…

November 27: Connecticut Passes Its Own Equal Rights Amendment

  In 1972, Connecticut was one of over 30 states that voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment as passed by Congress, which expressly prohibited discrimination based on a person’s sex. The federal E.R.A would have become the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution upon ratification by 3/4 of the states in the Union, but…

October 28: The Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association Formed

  On this day in 1869, at a meeting in Hartford attended by civil rights luminaries including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and William Lloyd Garrison, Isabella Beecher Hooker and her husband John formally established the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. Isabella was born into the famous Beecher clan of Litchfield in 1822. She and…

September 27: Theodate Pope Riddle’s Architectural Masterpiece

  As one of the first licensed woman architects in the United States and the first to be licensed in both Connecticut and New York State, Theodate Pope Riddle was one of Connecticut’s great designers and innovators of the early 20th century. Born into a wealthy family in 1867, young Effie Pope attended school at…