Sunday, May 2, 2021

Was Grandma a Feminist? shhh... Her Secret Life?


4 Resources to Researching The Heterodoxy
For the feminist of 1912  to abt. 1940, the badge of heterodoxy was hailed proudly in Greenwich Village. For the opposition, the "Heterodites "were destroying the “honor of the traditional women:" taking care of the family, cooking and cleaning; and being subservient to their mate.

Better said, they controversially encouraged women to think for themselves and find freedom by being economically, mentally and sexually independent. The Horror!

Many, but not all,  had come from progressive liberal schools, along the east coast.

Marie Jenny Howe, from  Cleveland, OH organized and founded Heterodoxy, a Greenwich Village group for women. A safe place to share and exchange thoughts and issues affecting it's members and women nationwide . Howe was an ordained, non-practicing Unitarian minister. Her only known stipulation for membership was that the applicant “not be orthodox in her opinion.” 

Women across the nation - activists, artists, writers, musicians, female professionals (i.e. doctors), “homemakers, aka wives, lesbians, and exhausted widows and divorcees, moved to or participated in the bohemian type lifestyle and freedom that Greenwich Village offered. Many joined the biweekly luncheons at Polly Halliday’s restaurant. Grace Nail Johnson, a New York African American elite, wife of Weldon Johnson,  was the only known African American woman who belonged to Heterodoxy. 

4 Tips to Researching Your Heterodoxy
After having raised her family - two sons and a daughter -  a 48 year old widowed moved from Massachusetts to a Greenwich Village address. She was settled in her small home by 1930 with an apparent roommate. Her story was quite curious to the a3Genealogy research team in 2012. One son had distanced himself from the family after “Father’s” death. The daughter, educated at Wellesley College in their home state of Massachusetts, frequented “Mother” in her small Greenwich Village home; the youngest son followed a “protest crowd” of his own. Notes and photos were located.  Following are 4 places to start your Greenwich Village ancestral research, even if she had lived in a sleepy midwestern town, before moving to New York City. 

Tip 1  Address
A single woman with a Greenwich Village address may tip off your genealogical research. Also these was neighborhood for that elusive artists - writer, actor, musician, etc.

Tip 2  Insane Wards, Jail and Prisons Records.
Be sure to check the insane wards. This feminine heterodoxy beliefs and practices landed many women, especially wives, in an institution for “reprogramming.”  

Heterodites Alice KimballAlison Turnbull HopkinsDoris Stevens, and Paula Jakobi were just a few arrested in 1917 and 1918 for suffrage protests. They served time in the Occoquan Workhouse, jail, or prison psychiatric wards. Your female ancestor may have also been an activists with a criminal record for her protests activities - suffrage, labor rights, birth control, etc. 

Tip 3  Diary.
Do you have a diary from your female ancestor? Many of these women were avid writers. 

They wrote to politicians, to each other and many kept diaries. The details of meetings were excluded, but personal diaries, by happenstance, may reference a name or two that may be quite telling. A reference to Polly’s Halliday's liberal tea house may also let you know that you are on the track of a progressive thinking ancestor.  .  

Tip 4 Photo Collections.

General Federation of Women's Club

Newspapers, libraries and local repositories have special collections and photos of the Heterodoxy and other Women Organizations. Photos and diaries of Jessie Tarbox Beals, should not be overlooked. Her diary and photos captured Greenwich Village and the Bohemian cultures. 

We used to call them "black sheep." Now I reference them as the "shapers and shakers" of America. 

 Be Historically Correct  

Kathleen Brandt
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