“Mrs. Stanton has sent us her picture and Miss Anthony’s to hang up in our office.”
Lavinia Goodell, April 5, 1879
Lavinia Goodell had a lifelong admiration for the work Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony did to promote women’s rights, particularly suffrage. Lavinia’s mother, Clarissa Cady Goodell, was a cousin of Stanton’s through her fourth great grandfather. Lavinia, along with her mother and sister, followed Stanton’s and Anthony’s writings and Lavinia regularly corresponded with both women.
The Goodell women were not always in lockstep with ECS and SBA on all topics, but they had respect for their intellect and work ethic. During the Civil War, Lavinia’s sister, Maria Frost, said, “I am entirely destitute of the kind of patriotism Mrs. Stanton expressed when she wished she had more boys to give to her country…. I say, my boys first, my country next, and me last of all.” Lavinia’s mother, in particular, sometimes found Stanton and Anthony’s views too liberal and unconventional. In 1869, Clarissa wrote to Lavinia that “Mrs. Stanton’s editorial … is a real free love doctrine. That never will do. Marriage never would be anything according to her doctrine.” But on the question of suffrage, the Goodells stood firmly with ECS and SBA.
In 1870, Maria Frost wrote to Lavinia:
I regard Mrs. Stanton as the most brilliant woman of the age. There is much to be admired. Her courage, energy, perseverance, as well as intellect. I have not been able to circulate a petition [in favor of suffrage]. I wish I could get one started. It seems to me so important. But the world can move if I cannot, so I shall be carried along I suppose
Stanton and Anthony followed Lavinia’s legal career with interest. In early 1876, the Janesville Gazette noted that Anthony had weighed in on Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Edward Ryan’s opinion denying Lavinia’s petition to be admitted to practice before the Court:
In 1877, Lavinia obtained petitions seeking women’s suffrage from Stanton and circulated them in Janesville, Wisconsin. The Gazette wrote:
For the first time in the history of this country unanimous consent was granted in both houses of congress, at the last session, for the presentation of petitions seeking the adoption of a Sixteenth Amendment, granting suffrage to women; and the representatives from twenty-two States rose in succession, each in his place, and presented the petition from his State. These petitions contained in the aggregate ten thousand names. Mrs. Stanton and other women who are taking a special interest in this movement and preparing to besiege the next congress with another petition to which they hope to obtain a much larger number of signatures. Miss Lavinia Goodell, of this city, will procure the blanks and solicit signatures. When a woman has made up her mind not to enter the kingdom of heaven disenfranchised she is going to be heard.
The following week, Anthony visited Janesville and, according to Lavinia’s diary, the two women “had a ten minute chat” at the railroad depot.
In early 1879, during Lavinia’s short legal partnership with Angie King, Stanton and Anthony sent a gift for the Goodell & King office. Lavinia wrote to her cousin Sarah Thomas,” Mrs. Stanton has sent us her picture and Miss Anthony’s, large lithographs, to hang up in our office. They look ever so nice.
Although neither Stanton nor Anthony lived long enough to see women gain the right to vote, they outlived Lavinia, who died in 1880 age age 40, by many years. Stanton died in 1902 at age 86. Anthony died in 1906, also at age 86. Women’s suffrage, which Stanton, Anthony, and Lavinia Goodell all worked to attain, finally arrived in 1920.
Sources consulted: Lavinia Goodell’s diaries; Lavinia Goodell’s letters to Maria Frost (April 5, 1879); Clarissa Goodell’s letter to Lavinia Goodell (December 31, 1869); Maria Frost’s letters to Lavinia Goodell (May 1, 1866; February 20, 1870); Lavinia Goodell’s letter to Sarah Thomas (April 5, 1879); Janesville Gazette (February 17, 1876; March 26, 1877).
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