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FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“Our History, Our Heritage, Our People”
Mary Louise Booth (1831-1889) of Yaphank was an accomplished writer and translator who was most well-known for her anti-slavery work, but she was also strongly involved in the early suffrage movement. Descended on her father’s side from John Booth, who came to America about 1649, Mary was born in Millville (present-day Yaphank) as the eldest of four children to Nancy Monsell and William Chatfield Booth. Her father owned and operated a wooden mill and dye house in Yaphank, and in the winter he served as schoolmaster for the children of Yaphank.
Booth was a child prodigy. She was reading at the age of two, and reading classic literature before age five. She was fluent in both English and French (her mother’s family had fled France during the French Revolution), and she taught herself German, Italian, and Spanish. She taught school for a time, as her father believed teaching was the only suitable career for a woman, but Mary aspired to a literary career. She left home and moved to Manhattan, where she wrote articles for various literary magazines and landed her first paying job as a writer, for the New York Times.
Gaining national attention and recognition for her translations of French anti-slavery books during the Civil War, including a personal thank-you from President Lincoln for her role in supporting the Union cause, Mary Louise Booth also published books, including her History of the City of New York (1859), and served as Harper’s Bazaar’s first editor, a position she held for over twenty years.
Booth served as a delegate to the New York State Teachers Association Convention in 1857, and it was here that she met Susan B. Anthony and joined the women’s rights movement. After the Civil War, Booth joined the National Woman Suffrage Association. Although Booth was not a militant feminist, she exemplified the modern woman: She was productive and well paid, and her accomplishments found their way into the American consciousness.
Suggested Readings: Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement by Antonia Petrash; Women in Long Island’s Past by Natalie Naylor; and Long Island Women Activists and Innovators, edited by Natalie Naylor and Maureen Murphy.
Beyond the Gates: A new exhibit in our Gish Gallery, now through June 25.
Suffolk County Historical Society
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