Isabella Beecher Hooker (Library of Congress, Sewall Collection)

Women and Adversity:

Isabella Beecher Hooker

Advocate, Suffrage and Women’s Rights

Isabella Beecher was considered frivolous by her family, and one reason was that she spent a lot of time checking her appearance. She wasn’t interested in marriage, but John Hooker, a lawyer and abolitionist and a descendent of Thomas Hooker, who founded Hartford, CT, pursued her. Isabella finally accepted his proposal, and the couple married August 5, 1841 when Isabella was 19.

After the marriage she would go to his law office, and they would read from Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. Isabella was incensed when she read one commentary that defined a married woman and man as one person under the law. It read in part, “…the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband…” From then on, Isabella worked for enfranchisement of women. She was outspoken and pressed for women’s rights and suffrage.

Isabella became acquainted with suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and joined the National Woman’s Suffrage Association. In 1869 she helped found the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association and was its director until 1905. In 1871 she organized the NWSA convention that drew up a constitutional amendment on suffrage and presented it to Congress. She lobbied and testified in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the amendment.

John assisted Isabella in drafting a bill for the Connecticut legislature giving married women the same property rights as their husbands. She introduced the bill to lawmakers for seven years before it passed in 1877.

Isabella was born February 22, 1822, in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her father was the renowned Congregationalist preacher Lyman Beecher. After his first wife died, leaving eight children, he married Harriet Porter, Isabella’s mother. Isabella’s half-sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was an avowed abolitionist and gained fame with her writings, primarily Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Isabella suffered a stroke and died about two weeks afterward on January 25, 1907, just short of her eighty-fifth birthday. John had died in 1901. The couple had four children. Their first son, Thomas, died as an infant, but Mary, Alice, and Edward survived.

More information:
connecticuthistory.org/looking-back-tempest-tossed-the-story-of-isabella-beecher-hooker
 awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/directory/isabella-b-hooker

 

 

Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published an ebook, Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women, in February 2020 and Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers in May 2020. Now available is Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment giving the women the right to vote. Take a look at them at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com.

  1. Judith Jadron says:

    How ironic–her courage, her power and her works reveal a woman of great substance, while her family passes judgment on her vanity.
    She had the good sense to choose a partner at an early age, complementing her life ambitions and accomplishments. Brava, Isabella Beecher Hooker!

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