Author: Meghan Buchanan
Farmington, CT is the quintessential picturesque New England town. Though many have not heard its name, this little town nestled in the Farmington Valley has a rich and fascinating history. But even more interestingly, this little town had Isabella Beecher Hooker.
Born in Litchfield in 1822, Isabella Beecher Hooker was a fascinating woman. The daughter of well-known preacher, Lyman Beecher, Isabella grew up in a family full of powerful and influential people. Her father, Lyman Beecher, was a distinguished minister who preached throughout country about the perils of intemperance. Her eldest sister, Catharine Beecher, pioneered early women’s education. And her older sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was an abolitionist and author of the famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Growing up the youngest daughter of such a profound family instilled within Isabella the desires for education, self-determination, and ultimately the desire for the right to vote. Isabella Beecher Hooker was a proud suffragette who campaigned for years for the right to vote. Her husband, John Hooker, played a major role in inspiring her in her pursuit of this goal. One night, John and Isabella stumbled upon a passage pertaining to a married woman’s status under the law. According to the law, a married woman and man were considered one person. Therefore, a woman had no legal rights separate from her husband. This both shocked and troubled Isabella greatly. It was at that moment she decided to dedicate her life to the suffrage movement.
After her marriage to John Hooker in 1841, Isabella resided in the Edward Hooker House, High Street in Farmington where she lived for over 10 years.
Though she spent the majority of her time raising her three children, she became increasingly involved within the suffrage movement. Isabella was especially supportive of a bill that would allow women the right to vote on issues regarding the sale of liquor. She argued that the issue of temperance affected women more strongly than men and that because of that, women should have the right to vote on it. Isabella knew that women were dependent on their husbands for their livelihood. Therefore, if a woman’s husband squandered money on liquor, her own wellbeing—and that of her children’s— was at stake.
After moving to Nook Farm in Hartford in the early 1850s, Isabella sought to form a suffrage organization. In 1869 she succeeded and founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. After forming her association, she began to spend more of her time traveling, speaking at conventions, and addressing Congress. What brought Isabella to suffrage initially, the idea that a woman had no legal rights separate from her husband, is what spurred her in her first goal – to pass a bill that would allow women to own property. In 1877, after fighting to have it passed for seven years, Isabella was finally successful. With the help of her husband, who helped write it, a bill was passed by the state legislature that allowed married women the right to own property.
Mrs. Hooker became very well know for her work regarding suffrage not just throughout Connecticut, but throughout the country as well. During her lifetime, she worked with prominent women within the movement such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. In her own right, Isabella was just as influential as these prominent well-known women. She worked tirelessly in her efforts and never wavered in her belief that women deserved the right to vote.
Anthony, Susan B., and Isabella Beecher Hooker and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Memorial of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Elizabeth L. Bladen, Olympia Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and Josephine L. Griffing, to the Congress of the United States, and the Arguments Thereon Before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate. Chronicle Publishing Company, 1872.
Campbell, Susan. Tempest Tossed, The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University press, 2014
Hooker, John. “WOMAN SUFFRAGE.” Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887), Mar 06, 1879.
“The Senate And Woman Suffrage.” New York Times (1857-1922), Feb 23, 1878.
White, Barbara A. The Beecher Sisters. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.