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A Woman of the Century:   A Crowdsourcing Project of the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries

January 22 - January 28

Women of the Week

Martia L. Davis Berry, a political reformer, Elizabeth Powell Bond, Dean of Swarthmore College, Mary D. Lowman, a municipal officer, and Ella Rhoads Higginson, a poet and author, are this week's Women of the Week.   

  •  To learn about them by viewing their items, please click on their images.  

  • To read their biographical sketches in A Woman of the Century, please click on the highlighted page numbers to the left of their images.

Martia L. Davis Berry.jpg

BERRY, Mrs. Martia L. Davis

January 22, 1844

political reformer

Portland, MI

p. 79-80

Political reformer Martia L. Davis Berry was born in Portland, Michigan, on January 22, 1844.  She became a teacher in the Portland Public Schools at age seventeen.  

Martia married John S. Berry, a Civil War veteran, in 1865, and they had one child.  The family moved to Glen Elder, Kansas in 1871, and then to Cawker City, Kansas in 1872.  There, Martia was a businesswoman for twelve years, working in millinery and general merchandise.  

Very active in Cawker City's Methodist Episcopal Church, Martia served as superintendent of the Sunday School for eight years.  In addition, she was founder of the area's Woman's Foreign Missionary Society.  

According to her obituary, John moved to another state, and Martia's record on notes that Martia and John divorced in 1882. 

Showing her leadership once again, Martia founded the Woman's Club in Cawker City in 1883.  Dedicated to founding a library in her town, she also founded the Woman's Hesperian Library Club.  Martia also gave her time to the State Industrial School for Girls in Belot, Kansas.

Devoted to equal rights for women, Martia was Treasurer of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association, where her colleagues included Annie LePorte DiggsAnna Churchill Wait, and Rachel Foster Avery.  On October 28, 1885, she presented a paper, "Womanhood and its Teachings," at the annual convention of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association.  The next week, The Saline County Journal noted that her paper "was well received and merited the encomiums bestowed on it."  In 1887, she played an active part in the successful effort for woman suffrage in  Kansas for "city and school officers and on bonds for school appropriations" (History of Woman Suffrage, v. 4, 650-651).

Martia also was a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, speaking at the 1886 convention in Topeka, Kansas, and later the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

In addition, Martia was President of the Kansas Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

She passed away on January 13, 1894, shortly before what would have been her fiftieth birthday.  Martia was buried in Prairie Grove Cemetery in Cawker City.

Elizabeth Powell Bond: A Woman of the Century

BOND, Mrs. Elizabeth Powell

January 25, 1841

Dean of Swarthmore College

Clinton, NY

p. 104

Elizabeth Powell Bond was born to Catherine Macy Powell and Townsend Powell on January 25th, 1841, in Clinton, New York.  She had an older brother named Aaron. When Elizabeth was four years old, the family moved to Ghent, New York where she grew up.

She attended the State Normal School in Albany, then began her teaching career in Mamaroneck, New York.  Next, Elizabeth became a gymnastics instructor at Vassar College. From there, she moved to Florence, Massachusetts, and met the lawyer Henry Herrick Bond.  . They married and became parents to two sons, Edwin Powell Bond, who was born in 1874, and Herrick Tyler Bond, who was born in 1878, but died in infancy.

Elizabeth spent the majority of her life teaching young children, as well as using her home to teach some of her pupils who were struggling in school.  Since they were interested in sharing local news and events, Elizabeth and her husband edited “The Northampton Journal.”

Bond was an educator and social activist who fought for women's rights, as well as for the rights of African Americans.  In addition, Elizabeth devoted a lot of time and effort to activities related to her Quaker religion.  Her personal network included Louisa May Alcott, Ellen Tucker Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fanny Garrison Villard, William Lloyd Garrison, and Dio Lewis.  Elizabeth was the first Dean of Women at Swarthmore College, a position she held from 1890 to 1906.  In 1901, Elizabeth wrote “Words by the Way,” which she dedicated to Swarthmore’s students.

During her later years, Elizabeth enjoyed gardening.  She passed away in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on March 29, 1926, and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Florence, Massachusetts.

Mary D. Lowman.jpg

LOWMAN, Mrs. Mary D.

January 27, 1842

municipal officer

Shelocta, PA

p. 476

Mary D. Lowman, who served as mayor of Oskaloosa, Kansas, was born in Shelocta, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, on January 27, 1842.  She married George W. Lowman in 1866 and moved to Kansas.  Mary became the mother of two children.

She taught for many years in Pennsylvania and Kansas, including three years in Kansas when Mary focused her attention on teaching newly emancipated African-Americans.

Also committed to fighting for religious causes, Mary, a Presbyterian, gave significant time to this work.

Mary was Assistant to the Register of Deeds, her husband, in her hometown of Oskaloosa, Kansas, before running for and being elected mayor in 1888.  She and her team of female council members were very successful in administering Oskaloosa, and they were reelected in 1889.  They received many notices in the press and much attention.

Tragically, as the  Topeka State Journal  explains, Mary died "from burns sustained when her clothing caught fire, while preparing a meal" at her home in Oskaloosa.  She passed away the next day, June 2, 1912, and was buried in Oskaloosa's Pleasant View Cemetery.

In the article discussing her passing, Topeka State Journal described Mary as "a woman of fine character and rare good sense and the finest modesty, and she bravely and quietly, with her assistants, went on with the work of governing the little city of a thousand people, and it was well governed, too, and an example set that told for the right for years following."

Ella Rhoads Higginson (2).jpg

HIGGINSON, Mrs. Ella Rhoads

January 28, 1862

poet and author

Council Grove, KS

p. 378

Poet and author Ella Rhoads Higginson was born in Council Grove, Kansas, on January 28, 1862.  Her family moved to Portland, Oregon, when she was a child, and they later lived in Oregon City, Oregon.

Ella married Russell C. Higginson in 1886, and the couple moved to Bellingham, Washington.  He was a druggist, and she began publishing her writing.  Ella contributed to many magazines, including Harper's MagazineMcClure's MagazineOnce A Week, Scribner's Magazine, and Woman's Home Companion.  She also was a book critic for The Seattle Times. Ella's most well-known poem was "Four Leaf Clover."

She served as editor of the women's department and contributed poems to West Shore.  In 1905, Ella served as assistant editor of The Westerner, a new Seattle, Washington periodical that was edited by Edgar L. Hampton.  According to The Ranch of June 15, 1905, "The feature in this number is 'Orilla," a Puget Sound novelette by Ella Higginson."

Ella was well-regarded by her contemporaries.  The Seattle Republican of April 5, 1912, noted, "In Bellingham there lives one of the truly great novelists, Ella Higginson.  Her 'Mary Ella Out West,' if that is the correct title, is the equal of either the 'Scarlet Letter' or 'Adam Bede.'" 

In addition to her writing, Ella, a women's rights supporter, was the campaign manager for Frances C. Axtell, the Washington State Legislature's first female member.

Ella's philanthropic work included being involved with founding Bellingham's first public library and volunteering for the American Red Cross.

On June 17, 1931, Ella received the honor of becoming the poet laureate of Washington State.

She passed away on December 27, 1940.

Ella was featured in "Ella Higginson and the Pacific Northwest" by Laura Laffrado on C-Span's BookTV video on December 9, 2013.