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

March 17 - March 23

Women of the Week

Nurse Susan E. Barry, philanthropist Sarah Ann Mather,  journalist Emily Thornton Charles, and journalist Alma Carrie Cummings, who celebrated birthdays during this week, 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.

Susan E. Barry (2).jpg

BARRY, Mrs. Susan E.

March 19, 1826

army nurse

Minisink, NY

p. 58-59

Susan E. Hall Barry was born in Minisink, New York, on March 19, 1826, and grew up near Ithaca, New York. 

She moved to New York City to receive her medical education and graduated in 1861.  In June of that year, Susan heeded the Ladies' Central Relief Association of New York's call for volunteer nurses.  After a rigorous six weeks of training at New York City hospitals, she and the other volunteers, including Harriet Dada, headed to Alexandria, Virginia.  Susan served as an army nurse in numerous locations during the war, working with Dorothea Dix and many other medical professionals. All of Susan's hard work took a serious toll on her health. 

Susan married Robert Barry in 1866, and they moved to San Francisco, California. 

In February of 1884, Harriet Dada Emens wrote an article in The National Tribune  about the work that she and Susan had done during the war.  A few weeks later, H.C. Magoon penned a letter to the editor of that paper thanking Harriet and Susan "for their kind attentions and ministrations" to one of his troop members who was wounded at Bull Run.  While she had tended to those troops over twenty years earlier, Susan's efforts had not been forgotten.

She received additional praise for her work when the Long Beach chapter of the Woman's Relief Corps held a dinner party in 1897 to honor Susan and other members of "the Army Nurses of the G.A.R."  Concerning Susan, The National Tribune  noted that her "service was known by many in Eastern and Western fields." By that time, she and her husband were living in Pasadena, California.

Susan passed away in Los Angeles on March 15, 1912, and was buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery.

Sarah Ann Mather (2).jpg

MATHER, Mrs. Sarah Ann

March 20, 1820


Chester, MA

p. 496

Sarah Ann Mather was born in Chester, Massachusetts, on March 20, 1820.  She attended Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and became involved in the field of education.  Sarah taught art at New England Conference Seminary in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and was both an administrator and a professor at Wesleyan College in Leoni, Michigan.

Over the course of her career, Sarah published several books. The Itinerant Side; or, Pictures of Life in the Itinerancy (1857) and Hidden Treasure; or, The Secret of Success in Life (1859), two of her earliest books, were Christian literature.  Both books were published by the New York firm of Carlton & Porter.

After the Civil War, Sarah moved to Camden, South Carolina, to assist former slaves. In 1867, she combined her interests in teaching and the Methodist Episcopal Church and began Mather Academy, a school for African-American children.

At the age of forty-nine, she married Rev. James Mather, a Methodist Episcopal minister.  Sarah was a leader of the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

When she retired to Hyde Park, Massachusetts, Sarah continued her philanthropic work, gave speeches, and wrote.  She passed away on May 14, 1901.

Emily Thornton Charles (2).jpg

CHARLES, Mrs. Emily Thornton

March 21, 1845

poet and journalist

Lafayette, IN

p. 169

Mrs. Emily Thornton Charles was a prodigious author, poet, journalist, and editor. Emily, born in Lafayette, Indiana on March 21, 1845, liked to write in rhyme as a child and was recognized for her writing skills and her ease at expressing herself. 

She attended the free schools of Indianapolis, and at the age of sixteen she became a teacher. However, she did not begin publishing until the death of her husband, Daniel B. Charles, a well-known businessman in Indianapolis. Mrs. Charles was left a widow at twenty-four years of age, in 1874. At that time, she was in poor health. As the provider for two children, she realized that she needed a career and discovered she could convert her facility with writing into a successful career in newspapers.

From there, she went on in 1876 to publish her first work, Hawthorn Blossoms, in Philadelphia. She wrote under the name "Emily Thornton" and the nom de plume, "Hawthorne." She has the distinction of establishing and operating "The National Veteran" in Washington, D.C. Due to her absorption in her work in 1883, she became overwrought and was confined to her bed. Not one to be idle, Emily Thornton Charles used this time to revise and edit her poetry. The result was Lyrical Poems (Philadelphia, 1886) a 300-page book that established her as a national poet. At the same time, she became a popular lecturer/public speaker, addressing large gatherings, including the National Woman's Suffrage Convention with her poetical address "Woman's Sphere." Her oratory was such that in 1893, she was selected as a speaker at the World's Columbian Exposition.

Emily was a member of the National Woman's Press Association, The Grand Army of the Republic, and Order of the Eastern Star.

Alma Carrie Cummings (2).jpg

CUMMINGS, Mrs. Alma Carrie

March 21, 1857


Columbia, NH

p. 219-220

Alma Carrie Cummings was born in Columbia, New Hampshire on March 21, 1857. She married Edwin S. Cummings when she was seventeen.  They started a family, and he worked as a newspaper owner.  

As her A Woman of the Century profile explains, once Edwin was proprietor of Colebrook's News and Sentinel, Alma spent her days at the paper.  When her husband passed away in 1887, Alma took over and became a very successful editor and proprietor. 

Writing about Alma in 1895, the Essex County Herald of Guildhall, Vermont, noted:

"We called on Mrs. Cummings of the News and Sentinel last Monday, and found her as usual driven with work.  Besides her editorial work and printing business she finds time to do some very beautiful painting and embroidery."

By 1906, Alma's son Harry was part of the team at the News and Sentinel.

That she continued her interests in both editorial and handwork is evident from her listings as "Editor and Conductor" in the 1910 census and "Dress Maker" in the 1920 census.

Alma passed away in Colebrook, New Hampshire, on January 13, 1926, and was buried in Colebrook Village Cemetery.