This semester explores Nantucket's
notable women
TONIGHT! Tune in for the second NHA
University virtual event.

September 29, at 6pm, held via Zoom
FREE for members / $5 for non-members
Join now as a member to receive this FREE perk
Featuring Dr. Valerie Paley in conversation with scholars of notable Nantucket women, including Michael Harrison, Dr. Jeffrey Kovach, Jamie Stiehm, and Betsy Tyler.

Dr. Valerie Paley is vice president, director of the Center for Women’s History, and chief historian at the New-York Historical Society. A graduate of Vassar College, she holds an MA in American Studies and a PhD in History from Columbia University. Paley serves on the board of the NHA and is a member of the Nantucket Women’s Initiative Committee.

Extraordinary Nantucket Woman:
Susan Austin Veeder,
Whaling Voyage Journalist
An excerpt from, A Thousand Leagues of Blue, The Pacific Whaling Voyages of Charles and Susan Veeder of Nantucket
By Betsy Tyler

"One of the most startling entries in Susan’s journal is the record of the birth of her daughter. She never mentions her pregnancy, nor does she hint at the reason for her stay in Talcahuano until January 29, when the simple birth announcement is recorded. What becomes immediately apparent is that the journal keeper was pregnant when she left Nantucket, well aware that her child might be born aboard the Nauticon if their voyage around Cape Horn was delayed. Her prolonged seasickness is understandable, as is her courage. Not only was she the first woman to depart on a whaling voyage from Nantucket, she was pregnant when she made her decision."
Nantucket Women, How The Quakers Women’s Meetings Established The Foundation For The National Women’s
Rights Movement

By Jeffrey Kovach, Ph.D.

The abolitionist movement of the early nineteenth cen-tury. The Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights in 1848. The women’s suffrage movement of the late nine-teenth and early twentieth centuries. What do these have in common?

You would be correct if you answered that each pro-foundly changed the face of the United States. You would also be correct if you said that Nantucket women led each of these movements. How did a small island twenty-seven miles off the Massachusetts mainland play such a vital role in shaping the United States today?

The answer to this question began at the dawn of the eighteenth century, even before the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, first established a monthly meeting on Nantucket. 

Photo: Eliza Starbuck Barney, circa 1865. F6742.
The Power of Voice, Reflections
on Lucretia Mott (17931880)
By Jamie Stiehm

She’s the best-kept secret in American history, and even on Nantucket, where she was born in 1793. I met her gaze as a sophomore at Swarthmore College, a serene square of Philadelphia. Her parlor portrait arrested me. I needed to know who that woman was. It turned out Lucretia Coffin Mott was a founder of the college and a major figure in slave emancipation and human rights. So why was she a mystery to me, a history major?

First, don’t be fooled by her sweet appearance. This Friend—or Quaker—was a force. Her Nantucket girlhood in a flourishing Quaker community shaped her like clay into pottery.

Photo: Bronze bust sculpture of Lucretia Coffin Mott,by Victoria Guerina.
NHA Purchase. 2020.7.1, on display in the current exhibition, The Road from Abolition to Suffrage.
The Real Women of Petticoat Row,
Centre Street, Nantucket
Enjoy more information in "The Real Women of Petticoat Row" article
By Michael R. Harrison

Crèvecoeur, in his 1782 Letters from an American Farmer, famously noted how the maritime economy of Nantucket engendered independence and self-reliance among the island’s women. The island’s whaling voyages often being “very long, [the whalemen’s] wives in their absence are necessarily obligated to transact business, to settle accounts, and in short, to rule and provide for their families.” This history of women’s empowerment in the family economy is well documented. Its extension into the island’s commercial economy has long been taken for granted, based largely, it seems, on the anecdotal evidence of a few well-known female merchants, such as Mary Starbuck (1645–1717) and, particularly, Kezia Coffin (1723–1798), whom Crèvecoeur describes entering the mercantile trade while her husband was making whaling cruises. Over time, the strong women of Nantucket have become embodied in the mythos of “Petticoat Row,” a street where women-owned and women-run businesses dominated the retail landscape. As an article in The Inquirer and Mirror put it in 1976, “Petticoat Row has been the nick-name of Centre Street from Main Street north towards Broad Street since the 18th Century, so called because the shop keepers were mostly ladies, usually the wives or widows of the men who were away for years at a time with the whale fishery.”
From the Collection
Quaker Style Bonnet, 1840s
Unknown maker. Silk, buckram, paper, 83/4 x 61/4 x 101/4 in.
Gift of Mrs. Henry Hallam Saunderson

This poke bonnet belonged to Phebe (Folger) Coleman (1771–1857), multitalented poet, diarist, artist, farmer, and mill owner of Nantucket and upstate New York. One of ten children born to Walter and Elizabeth Folger, she was particularly close to her older brother, Walter Folger Jr., from whom she learned mathematics and navigation. She later taught these subjects to her mariner husband, Samuel Coleman (1773–1825), whom she married in 1798. She taught school for a time while he followed the sea and filled a commonplace book that she titled Un Recueil (“A Collection”) with, in her words, “Painting, Penmanship, Algebra and Pieces selected from various authors in Prose and Verse, with a few Pieces in French and their Translation.” In 1809, she and Samuel moved to Hudson, New York, to take up farming near his relatives. They later owned a grist mill and saw mill at Ghent, New York, which she continued to manage after his death.

The bonnet’s simple style marks it as Quaker headwear, and its distinctively pleated crown tells us its owner followed the orthodox Wilburite sect. It is made of tan twill-weave silk with cream-colored silk ribbon ties. The crown is formed with buckram, and the large brim is lined with silk supported by paper. In a small concession to ornament, there is more cream-silk ribbon in a bow just above the bavolet, or neck flounce, at the back. A bonnet like this would always have been worn over a cap, and an oilskin or quilted cover would have been added over it in rain or cold.

by Michael R. Harrison
NHA Publication Digital Read
"Sometimes Think of Me:” Notable Nantucket Women through the Centuries, features embroidered narratives by island needlework artist Susan Boardman with text by Betsy Tyler.

Purchase this book now in the online museum shop.
Save the Date for the next
NHA University Virtual Lecture

Suffrage Through the Eyes of Anna Gardner
Tuesday, October 13, at 5pm, held via Zoom
FREE to NHA Members / $5 for Non-Members
Join now as a member to receive this FREE perk
This lecture with NHA Research Fellow Barbara Ann White will focus on Anna Gardner's contribution to the suffrage movement. Anna's life embodies choices women had to make during the 19th century if they wanted a career. She was an officer of the Nantucket Suffrage Club, which was allied with the American Woman Suffrage Association. She spoke on behalf of suffrage at the Fourth Women's Congress in 1876, presided over by Nantucket-born scientist and friend, Maria Mitchell. In 1880, Anna and twelve other Nantucket women made history by casting ballots in a local election. White will conclude by surmising what Anna would think of the continuing struggle for voting rights in the years since her death.
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The Guardian Fund was created in direct response to COVID-19. Donations to the fund will directly support the operations of the NHA during this time to offset losses incurred from closures and the greater economic concerns. With this critical support, the NHA will be better positioned to steer a clear course.
Photo: Katie Kaizer Photography. April 9, 2020.
Whaling Museum
Open 9am–5pm, Monday–Saturday
(Closed Sundays) 

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