Go to Top

History Bytes

History Bytes: Susan B. Anthony’s Rhode Island Roots

Susan Brownell Anthony (1820-1906), the most recognizable of American social reformers and women’s rights activists, was the product of eight generations of Quaker teachings. From the establishment of the Quaker religion, women in the Society of Friends had complete equality in the worship service and governance of the congregation. This practice of equality was passed down through generations and must have shaped Susan’s strong support of abolitionism, suffragism, property rights and fair wages for women and more. Susan’s ancestry can be traced to John Anthony (1607-1675), who settled in Portsmouth, Rhode Island around 1640. Through intermarriages, her ancestors include Potters, Clarkes, Shermans, Coggeshalls and other founding settlers of Rhode Island. Over time, her family followed very typical Quaker migration routes from Portsmouth to Dartmouth and Adams, Massachusetts, through the Nine Partners region of Dutchess County, New York, finally settling in Rochester.

Image: Early Anthony family death entries from the records of the Rhode Island Monthly Meeting of Friends

History Bytes: Dr. Harriett Alleyne Rice

Dr. Harriett Alleyne Rice was born in the Rice family homestead at 33 Spring Street, then near the corner of Touro Street. Her father, George A. Rice, was a steward for the Newport Steamship Company. Harriett attended public schools and graduated from Rogers High School in 1882. She later distinguished herself as the first African American graduate of Wellesley College and of the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary. Her brother George, graduated from Dartmouth and was granted a medical degree in Edinburgh, Scotland. During World War I, Harriett served in hospitals throughout France and won awards for her “immense services.” She returned to America as a practicing physician, and died at Worcester, MA in 1958. She is buried in the Rice Family Plot in the God’s Little Acre section of Newport’s Common Burying Ground.

Image of Dr. Harriett Alleyne Rice courtesy of Gilded Age in Color

History Bytes: Summer Vacation Getaway

After a long winter in New York City, Col. Washington and Emily Roebling needed a break. In 1882 they rented “Blue Rocks,” the Lloyd Mayer house (later known as “Stella Maris”) at 91 Washington Street, and looked forward to a restful summer with a view of the harbor. Unfortunately, work and family life caught up to them in little Newport.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City. circa 1915. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-74616

Col. Washington Augustus Roebling (1837-1926) was a Civil War engineer and succeeded his father as the designer and chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, a modern miracle of design and function. Shortly after arriving in Newport, Roebling was strongly criticized by the Mayor of New York and Mayor of Brooklyn, Seth Low, for prolonged delays in the bridge project. Low, (vacationing at “Sunset Ridge” near Castle Hill), and Gov. Edwin D. Morgan, (vacationing on Narragansett Avenue), called for Roebling’s resignation and replacement. Emily Roebling dismissed the action as political in nature and successfully lobbied to keep her husband’s job. Emily was also a driving force in the completion of the bridge in the face of her husband’ declining health due to complications from caisson disease, also known as “the bends.”

Throughout the bridge controversy, Emily had to address the death of her father, Gen. Gouverneur Kemble Warren, on 8 August 1882. Warren headed the U.S. Engineering Office on Thames Street and was the subject of an on-going court of inquiry regarding his conduct at the Battle of Five Forks during the Civil War. He was cleared of all charges three months later.

In 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge was completed and Emily was honored in her husband’s absence. They returned to “Blue Rocks” later that summer.

Image (top): “Blue Rocks,” the Lloyd Minturn Mayer house, later known as “Stella Maris,” on Washington Street. Photo credit, Bert Lippincott III