Librarian and Innovator of the ‘Bookmobile’: Farmington New Hampshire’s Mary Lemist Titcomb (1857-1932)

Mary Lemist Titcomb.
Photograph courtesy of the
Washington County Free Library System,
as cited on Western Maryland’s
Historical Library online.
Used with permission.

In 1905 it was an ground breaking idea to bring books directly to people who had trouble getting to the library. Mary Lemist Titcomb was passionate about reading, and making books available to everyone in Washington County, Maryland.

She started off by creating book collections in local public spaces such as churches, schools and post offices until there were 66 of them. A delivery truck would refresh and exchange the books on a regular basis. Then feeling she could reach more people, she began using a book cart to deliver books to families.

At first using a horse-drawn “Library Wagon,” and later a motorized vehicle the program expanded its services beyond library buildings to stopping at schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and anywhere people lived or met. “No better method has ever been devised for reaching the dweller in the country. The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book,” Mary stated in her “Story of the Washington County Free Library.” Continue reading

Godmother of New Hampshire’s War for Independence: Elizabeth “Molly” (Page) Stark (1737-1814)

Likeness of Elizabeth “Molly” Stark, attributed to Henry Benbridge. Original from book, “A Life of General John Stark of New Hampshire,” by Caleb Stark; colorized and her traditional dark blue eyes added by Janice Webster  Brown

Molly Stark deserves to be called ‘Godmother’ of New Hampshire, at least when it comes to her involvement in the American Revolution. Of course there were many women who supported their men and country during that crucial time in United States history. Molly Stark is mentioned in local history due to her active involvement in supporting her General husband, and nursing the  the illnesses and wounds of his troops. She was a frequent and visible reminder to the militiamen of what they had to lose besides their lives–their wives, mothers and daughters.

At the battle of Bennington, one of the turning points of the American Revolution, her husband John Stark, General and leader of the New Hampshire-based army, made his now famous quote, paraphrased here: “The enemy are ours or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow.”  [Note: there were countless versions and revisions of the original quote, so many so that it is impossible to determine the original words spoken]. Continue reading

New Hampshire’s First Woman Embalmer and Funeral Director: Minnie (Edwards) Atwood (1854-1904)

Before it became a profession, care of the dead often fell to women. Generally preparation was bathing the body, and readying the newly departed for a wake and burial. In America, that process changed during the Civil War when those who died far from home needed extra time and care to make the journey by train or wagon back to their families.

At the same time various discoveries had been made using arsenic and later formaldehyde for body preservation. Though many families still clung to their traditions and made their own preparations, others opted for the services of “undertakers” and “embalmers.” Most of these early services were performed by men. Continue reading

100 Years Ago: New Hampshire’s Irish Celebration of 1917

Nashua Telegraph advertisement from 16 March 1917 by Speare Dry Goods.

On March 17, 1917 New Hampshire, along with many other places in the United States, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. No one knew that 20 days later, this country would be at war [announced April 6, 1917].

In New Hampshire where there were many of Irish descent to celebrate the day, but most of the celebrations were in private homes.   The Portsmouth Herald of 17 March 1917 announced: “Preparations are being made for the celebration of ‘St. Patrick’s day in the morning’ in New York City on the usual elaborate scale, and there will be exceptional interest in the event this year owing to the world conditions and conditions in the ‘fair green isle’ from which the followers of good St Patrick come.” Continue reading

Dover New Hampshire Suffragist and UNH Administrator: Carmita Aileen (Cameron) Murphy (1925-2003)

Carmita Aileen Murphy, from the 1957 UNH Yearbook, “Granite.”  Image courtesy of the University of New Hampshire Library Digital Collections.

New Hampshire women take for granted that they can vote. Many believe that with the passage of the federal suffrage amendment in 1919 New Hampshire women were automatically given complete voting rights. It is not so. Constitutionally women did not have full rights in New Hampshire until Carmita Murphy proposed they should in 1956, and it was placed on a state ballot and approved (by vote) in 1958.

I came across an interesting story published in several newspapers on the same date of 19 March 1958. “Mrs. Carmita A. Murphy of Dover ran a one-woman suffrage campaign as a delegate to a 1956 constitutional convention to have the word ‘male’ deleted from those sections of the constitution. She won. A proposed constitutional change will appear on the state ballots in November. When New Hampshire ratified the 19th Amendment in 1919, the Legislature ordered the word “male” deleted from the state voting restriction laws. The change was never made in the state constitution.” Continue reading