Your Turn: Read about many remarkable Connecticut women in one book
Since March is Women’s History Month, what better time to introduce an excellent book that honors 13 Connecticut women by profiling their lives and their “lasting social, political, and cultural contributions to both their own state and to their nation.”
The book is “More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Connecticut Women” by Antonia Petrash.
Size doesn’t matter, not in terms of the length of this book (150 pages) or in terms of geographical area (Connecticut is the third smallest of the 50 states). These women demonstrated determination and strength of character, breaking barriers “to advance women’s roles in the arts, on the battlefield, and in education, exploration, and commerce,” as Petrash writes.
These women of courage also “defied social norms and prejudices, making contributions to society that still have an impact today,” she said.
It is impossible to do justice to Petrash’s book or to any of the short biographies in this space. Every word on every page of the book should be read. I have chosen three women as representatives of the scope and diversity of this book.
Harriet Beecher Stowe is the most famous of the 13 women whose biography appears in Petrash’s book because she “used her pen to change the world,” by writing the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Its portrayal of the cruelty and horror of slavery was a factor leading fueling abolition sentiment that led to the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, according to President Lincoln himself, who met with Stowe at the White House in 1862.
Eva Lutz Butler is one of two Native American women whose lives are briefly chronicled for readers. A general expert on the history of the Groton area, Butler was an anthropologist and archeologist, in addition to being a historian and diarist.
Butler helped transform the former Mystic National Bank Building into The Indian and Colonial Research Center, located on Main Street (Route 27) in Old Mystic.
“There were very few Indians left in Connecticut,” wrote Butler in 1931, so she traveled to New Mexico to learn more about Native American culture.
She also researched and shed light through her writing on “the societal inequities of ordinary colonial women.” Last but not least, Butler was a teacher at Willimantic State College, now ECSU.
“Using archeology as a teaching tool, she led students in digs in West Mystic,” among other towns, according to the book.
Martha Minerva Franklin, dubbed “champion of Black nurses” by the author, is my third choice because of her background and chief occupation. The increased need for nurses in the 1890s and early 1900s due to a proliferation of hospitals in America opened the door for Black women to be educated and then enter an honorable and relatively more lucrative profession.
After graduation from the Freedman’s Hospital Nursing School, later affiliated with Howard University in Washington, D.C., Franklin moved to New Haven, where she began her professional career. Before she died at the age of 97 in 1968, Franklin worked tirelessly to make nursing “a highly respected profession of women and men of all races.”
My own experience in recent years has made it clear the American medical profession is more dependent on nurses than ever. It could not survive without their skills and dedication.
For more, check out “More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Connecticut Women,” by Antonia Petrash, published by the Guilford-based Globe Pequot Press.
Jim Izzo, a retired teacher, lives in Mystic.
Your Turn is a chance for readers to share stories and commentary. To contribute, email firstname.lastname@example.org.