For Women’s History Month: 15 Famous Females in My Family

I was going to post this on March 1 for the launch of Women’s History Month, but I have been very pokey on the blogging front lately. I’m no less pokey today, but let’s consider this a second chance at redemption. Besides, as so many have said, a celebratory month or holiday is a rather lame bone to throw half (actually slightly more than half) of the human race. Reparations would be giving them dominance for the next 10,000 years; justice would be giving them full equality everywhere from now on. So we post this on the last day of Woman’s History Month as a reminder to consider the contributions of women EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR.

Here are several important women to whom I have discovered connections in my family tree. I’ve skipped some of the older ones I’ve learned about for the reason that they are so far back that nearly every European or every Briton can claim relation or ancestry. Lady Godiva is supposedly my (29th) great grandmother; Eleanor of Aquitaine a (22nd) great grandmother, but these are practically like claiming a relationship to Eve.


Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643)

Religious dissident and leader and one of the founders of Rhode Island. She was my (12th) great aunt. More on her and my Rhode Island family here. 


Abigail Adams (1744-1818)

One of our most remarkable (and best educated) first ladies, and close adviser to her husband John Adams. We are distantly related via our common ancestors in the Boylston family. More on the Adamses and other presidential relations here. 


Jane Austen (1775-1817)

I am related to the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility via our common descent from Sir Thomas Leigh (1504-1571), London businessman and alderman and, briefly, Lord Mayor.


 Sarah Helen Whitman (1803-1878)

While I was delighted to learn I am related to so many of my 19th century literary heroes (see list here), I was disappointed to know that I’m not connected to one of my absolute favorites, Edgar Allan Poe. So it came as a wonderful consolation prize to find out that I am related to one of Poe’s closest friends, the Providence poet Sarah Helen Whitman, whom we first learned much about from our friend Rory Raven. Rest assured we’ll blog about her in future once I’ve read more of her work.


Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)

As Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of my favorite novels, I was extremely happy to recently learn I was related to her through a common ancestry with my (7th) great grandfather Richard Lyman and (9th) great grandmother Elizabeth Charde. My earlier post about her is here.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

As we blogged about here, our maternal grandmother was a Cady, and the famous abolitionist and feminist hero was of the same family. She is one of the personages on this page we are most closely related to. Read the full blogpost here.


 Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

I probably share the most early colonial ancestors with this icon of woman’s rights, including John Russell, Philip Sherman, Simon Stone, William Carpenter, Humphrey Atherton and John Titus.


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I discovered this great poet in my late teens via a girl I was crazy about who considered her one of her favorite writers. I looked for ages to find a family connection. It seemed impossible I didn’t have one, although I do have fewer relatives in the western part of Massachusetts. But I did finally find one common ancestor, my (10th) great grandfather Richard Wright


Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Believe it or not, I never read Little Women until quite recently, convinced to do so by the Mad Marchioness’s enthusiasm for it, which I now share. The Alcott name was originally rendered “Alcock.” My (10th) great grandfather Thomas Alcock is where we align.


Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

As we blogged here, Edmund Ingalls is our common ancestor. My brief post on Little House on the Prairie is here. Naturally, I am also related to Wilder’s daughter, the writer Rose Wilder Lane, an equally interesting character.


Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

As we blogged here, Eleanor Roosevelt’s great grandmother, like myself, was a Stewart.


 Ruth Hale (1887-1934)

Both my great grandmother and a (3rd) great grandmother were of the southern Hale family, which stretches back to Richard Hale of Virginia, our common ancestor. Although not well known today, Ruth Hale was important to feminism by being a co-founder of the Lucy Stone League, which championed the right of married women to use their own given surnames, among other issues. She was married to the writer Heywood Broun. 


Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)

I am related to this proud New Englander and Hollywood icon through the Mayflower’s Brewster family (via marriage) and share many medieval ancestral connections.


Bette Davis (1908-1989)

Bette Davis, like Hepburn, was from Connecticut. We share several medieval connections, notably the Beauchamps. Other classic era movie actresses I am related to include Jean Arthur, Gene Tierney, Anne Baxter and Elizabeth Taylor.


Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

I am especially proud of this association. Although Joplin was from Texas, she had many colonial New England ancestors. We share common descent from the Winthrops, the Shermans, and John Russell among others.

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