Colonial Ipswich was a patriarchal society, and its history is all-too-frequently written by and about men. On this site, read dozens of stories about the women of Ipswich and the North Shore area.

featured Image: Mary Lyon, co-founder of the Ipswich Female Seminary

Lowell Offering The Lowell Offering - The Lowell Offering was a monthly periodical, first published in 1840, which featured poetry and fiction by female workers at textile mills in Lowell, MA. Known as the Lowell Mill Girls, they often wrote about situations in their own lives, including labor unrest in the factories. The Offering ceased publication in 1844 but was revived from 1848 to 1850 as the New … Continue reading The Lowell Offering
Measuring time by an hourglass by Kitty Robertson Measuring Time–by an hourglass - Kitty Robertson’s Measuring Time—By an Hourglass is an exquisite collection of essays, reflections on a 20th century life in small town New England, that first were published in the Ipswich Chronicle. Kitty is also the author of “The Orchard: A Memoir”. “Look through my eyes for a little while,” Kitty invites, “and may what you … Continue reading Measuring Time–by an hourglass
The Laces of Ipswich - In its lace making heyday in the late eighteenth century, Ipswich, Massachusetts boasted 600 lace makers in a town of only 601 households. George Washington himself, a lace afficionado, paid a visit to Ipswich in 1789 to support its extraordinary domestic textile industry. In The Laces of Ipswich: The Art and Economics of an Early … Continue reading The Laces of Ipswich
“The Orchard” by Adele Crocket “Kitty” Robertson - The Orchard: A Memoir is an exquisitely beautiful and poignant memoir of a young woman’s single-handed struggle to save her New England farm in the depths of the Great Depression. Recently discovered by the author’s daughter, it tells the story of Adele “Kitty” Robertson, young and energetic, but unprepared by her Radcliffe education for the rigors … Continue reading “The Orchard” by Adele Crocket “Kitty” Robertson
Peg Wesson witch of Gloucester Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch - An old legend about the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson is often mentioned, but never was it told in such detail as in this story, written by Sarah G. Daley and published in the Boston  Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country. It was March, 1745, and the company raised in Gloucester to join the … Continue reading Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch
Hospital Girls - Communicable diseases were rampant in the United States before the 20th Century, and most communities relocated infected people to buildings designated as “pest houses.” In 1804 the Ipswich Pest House is reported to have been been moved from Scott’s Hill to Town Farm Road. Ipswich residents needing treatment that a local physician could not provide went to hospitals in … Continue reading Hospital Girls
Dulcibel, A Tale of Old Salem - Dulcibel is a fictional young woman charged with witchcraft during the Salem Witch trials. The book was written by Henry Peterson (1818-1891), a journalist and poet who served for twenty years on the editorial staff of the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post. This edition was published in 1907. The illustrations are by Howard Pyle, an author … Continue reading Dulcibel, A Tale of Old Salem
The Hello Girls - Story by Harold Bowen, from Tales of Olde Ipswich, 1975. It was sort of a sad year in 1954 when the telephone service in Ipswich was changed from the traditional operator system (Hello Girls) to the dial system. Although in many ways the dial system is an improvement over the old method of direct contact with … Continue reading The Hello Girls
The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II - The former Ipswich Mills, now owned by EBSCO, was the site of one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Second World War. The VT proximity fuze (variable time fuse) resembled tubes found in radios, and made it possible to detonate antiaircraft shells in the proximity of their target, rather than on impact. Fearing that the secret of the invention might fall into … Continue reading The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II
Mehitable Braybrooke burned down the house, but which one? - From Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: “From the Lakeman place to the corner of the Road to Jeffries’ Neck, there were two original lots, John Sanders, next to the Lakeman place, and then John Perkins, the elder, but Perkins bought of Sanders, his lot, an acre and three rods, in 1639. John Perkins, “Taller” … Continue reading Mehitable Braybrooke burned down the house, but which one?
The “Little Old Lady from Ipswich” who was seen around the world - In 1934, Mrs. Mary C. Hayes became the centerpiece of a poster that was placed in 25,000 English-speaking theaters throughout the world. Mrs. Hayes was chosen as the model by famous Ipswich artist M. Leone Bracker (1885 – 1937) as the personification of the great body of movie-goers. The theme of this poster was, “Forgetting a Thousand Cares,” the … Continue reading The “Little Old Lady from Ipswich” who was seen around the world
The mill girl’s letter: “I can make you blush.” - (Thanks to Linda George, who shared with me “this little piece of paper depicting a day in the life of a ‘mill girl’ from March, 1911.” March 20, 1911, Ipswich Mr. Jewett Dear Sir, I received the ribbon you sent me by mail, and I thank you ever so much for it. I was asking … Continue reading The mill girl’s letter: “I can make you blush.”
Agnes Surriage and Sir Harry Franklin Marblehead tavern maid Agnes Surriage becomes becomes the lady of the manor, 1742 - Thanks to the New England Historical Society for this romantic old tale from Marblehead. In 1742, Charles Henry Frankland, the king’s collector for the port of Boston, visited Marblehead. Staying at the Fountain Tavern, he was gobsmacked by the beauty of Agnes Surriage, the tavern’s 16-year-old maid. Charmed by her beauty and straightforward manner, Frankland offered … Continue reading Marblehead tavern maid Agnes Surriage becomes becomes the lady of the manor, 1742
Swampscott train wreck Ipswich woman survived two train crashes in one morning, 1956! - Today I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Charlotte Lindgren, an Ipswich native, and who also loves Ipswich history. Her great grandparents Marianna and Maynard Whittier owned a “commodious house” at the junction of Essex Road and County Road (also known as “Parting Paths“). The old house and farm were long ago replaced by the Whittier Motel. … Continue reading Ipswich woman survived two train crashes in one morning, 1956!
The witchcraft accusations against Sarah Buckley and Mary Witheridge - Sarah Buckley was brought from England to Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a child with her parents. She joined the Ipswich church around 1650, and married a local yeoman, William Buckley. The couple moved to the Marblehead area of Salem where they acquired a home, and Sarah transferred her church membership to Salem. In … Continue reading The witchcraft accusations against Sarah Buckley and Mary Witheridge
Margery Bedinger of Salem, campaigning for women's right to vote A Salem Suffragette | streetsofsalem - Well, today is Women’s Equality Day, designated in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which finally granted women the right to vote after a long struggle for suffrage.  I’m certain that there was more than one fierce advocate of votes for women in progressive Salem, but Margery Bedinger of Forrester … Continue reading A Salem Suffragette | streetsofsalem
Elizabeth S. Cole is elected as first female Ipswich selectman, March 10, 1970 - IPSWICH, March 10, 1970: For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, a woman has been elected a member of the Ipswich Board of Selectmen. Trouncing three male contenders, including the incumbent, Mrs. Elizabeth s. Cole of Argilla Road swept into office Monday, poling 1401 of the 3364 ballots cast by an … Continue reading Elizabeth S. Cole is elected as first female Ipswich selectman, March 10, 1970
The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680 - Elizabeth Morse of Newbury was accused and found guilty of being a witch. She was initially sentenced to be hanged, but the execution was never carried out and, after spending a year in the Boston jail, Elizabeth Morse was sent home to live with her husband on the condition that she was forbidden to travel … Continue reading The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680
The Legend of Goody Cole, 1680 - In Myths and Legends of our Own Time, Charles M. Skinner wrote the following story, based on two poems by John Greenleaf Whittier. Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so “vehemently suspected to be a witch” that she was arrested in 1680 for the third time and was thrown into the Ipswich jail with a chain … Continue reading The Legend of Goody Cole, 1680
Emma jane Mitchell Safford The Ipswich “Indian Princess” Emma Jane Mitchell Safford - Across Green Street from the Ipswich Town Hall is a sign on a fence, commemorating Emma Jane Mitchell Safford. She was a descendant of Massasoit, Sachem (tribal leader) of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620. While the sign is factually incorrect (the term “Indian Princess” is an English construct and Massachusetts was not named after … Continue reading The Ipswich “Indian Princess” Emma Jane Mitchell Safford
Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles - *Excerpt From the Cowles Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.which contain correspondence, writings, biographical information, Caldwell and Cowles family papers and a photograph. Chiefly focusing on Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles amd her connections to Mary Lyon and Zilpah P. Grant Banister through both Mount Holyoke and Ipswich Female Seminaries. “Eunice … Continue reading Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles
Abraham Choate House, 16 Elm St. (Now at Smithsonian) - In 1963 Kay Thompson and Helen Lunt, two housewives, recognized that chapters of American history, written within the walls of a simple clapboard house slated for destruction in Ipswich, Massachusetts, were in peril. Through their efforts, the historic house was relocated to the Smithsonian where it still resides as the Museum’s largest single artifact on permanent display. … Continue reading Abraham Choate House, 16 Elm St. (Now at Smithsonian)
The pillow lace site, Ipswich MA Pillow lace - The Pillow Lace plaque is located in front of 5 High Street in Ipswich. In the mid-18th Century a group of Ipswich women started making and selling lace with distinctive patterns. Small round lap pillows were used to pace the bobbins and needles as the lace grew around it. Ipswich lace quickly became very popular and … Continue reading Pillow lace
The Ipswich lighthouse - In 1837 the U.S. government erected two 29′ towers for guidance to the mouth of the Ipswich River along with a lightkeeper’s residence. The lighthouses were aligned such that they would provide guidance into the river’s mouth. The westernmost tower soon was updated with a revolving light. The first keeper of the Ipswich Light was … Continue reading The Ipswich lighthouse
“Hatchet Hannah” leads raid on Rockport liquor establishments, July 8, 1856 - In 1919, the manufacture and sale of all alcoholic beverages was prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment 14 years later. Rockport, MA remained a dry town until 2005, and liquor stores are still not allowed. On the morning of July 8, 1856, two hundred women, three … Continue reading “Hatchet Hannah” leads raid on Rockport liquor establishments, July 8, 1856
Names of the Ipswich slaves - In 1638, a ship returned to Salem from the West Indies after a seven-month voyage. Its cargo included cotton, tobacco and, as far as we know, the first African slaves to be imported into Massachusetts. In 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony adopted a code of laws that made slavery legal. It would remain so for the … Continue reading Names of the Ipswich slaves
The hanging of Ezra Ross and Bathsheba Spooner, July 2, 1778 - In 1778, sixteen year old Ezra Ross, son of Jabez and Johana Ross of Ipswich was condemned to death for his participation in the murder of Joshua Spooner of Brookfield MA. Spooner’s wife Bathsheba became the first woman executed in the newly created United States of America. Ezra Ross is buried in an unmarked grave at the Leslie Road Cemetery … Continue reading The hanging of Ezra Ross and Bathsheba Spooner, July 2, 1778
Rachel Clinton arrested for witchcraft, May 28, 1692 - Everything about Rachel Clinton’s life went wrong, and in her old age she became a a beggar and a ward of the town of Ipswich, She was an easy target for the witchcraft hysteria that spread from Salem throughout Essex County, and on May 28, 1692, Rachel Clinton was arrested, She was kept in the Ipswich or Salem jail, shackled with … Continue reading Rachel Clinton arrested for witchcraft, May 28, 1692
Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials - In his book Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about Ipswich involvement in the Salem witch trials: The evidence was of the usual absurd character; Sarah Good had been confined in Ipswich jail. Joseph Herrick, the Constable of Salem, testified that she had been committed to his charge to carry to … Continue reading Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials
Four-year-old Dorothy Good is jailed for witchcraft, March 24, 1692 - Sarah Poole’s husband died in 1682 leaving her in debt. Sarah then married William Good, but creditors seized their Salem home, and by 1692, Sarah Good and her husband were homeless beggars. Sarah had long been a melancholy and somewhat confrontational woman, and was accused of witchcraft on February 25, 1692 by the girls Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Parris. … Continue reading Four-year-old Dorothy Good is jailed for witchcraft, March 24, 1692
Elizabeth Perkins was a wicked-tongued woman - Luke Perkins and his wife, Elizabeth were notorious disturbers of the peace in 17th-Century Ipswich, and she was said to have a “venomous tongue.” It was a happy day for the town when Luke and Elizabeth loaded their goods into a boat and set sail for the solitary Island farm on Grape Island. However, Luke did not fulfil the conditions, and … Continue reading Elizabeth Perkins was a wicked-tongued woman
Lowell women’s suffrage activist Florence Luscomb - Florence Luscomb was born in Lowell on February 6, 1887 in Lowell. She was among the first women to graduate from M.I.T. with a degree in architecture, and in 1912 she and a fellow MIT graduate formed a two-woman firm in Waltham, specializing in designing public buildings and housing for workers. Luscomb’s true love was … Continue reading Lowell women’s suffrage activist Florence Luscomb
The mystery woman (and men) of Summer Street - This photo was posted by the Ipswich Museum on their Facebook page today, with the caption, “an undated image of a woman bundled up and enjoying the snow in style.” I wondered if this photo came from Ipswich– the streetscape reminded me of Summer Street, but it did not match the houses. I took a look at … Continue reading The mystery woman (and men) of Summer Street
Elizabeth Whitman – The “Mysterious Coquette,” July 25, 1788 - The Elizabeth Whitman Mystery at the Old Bell Tavern in Danvers Elizabeth Whitman arrived at the Bell Tavern in Danvers, Massachusetts in the late spring of 1788. Refined, pleasant and beautiful, she was also pregnant. Whitman checked into the tavern under the name of Walker. She was from Connecticut, she told the innkeeper, and said … Continue reading Elizabeth Whitman – The “Mysterious Coquette,” July 25, 1788
The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697 - Hannah Duston of Haverhill was born in Ipswich on High Street in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston was created by Calvin Weeks in Haverhill in Grand Army Park, honoring her escape from Abanaki captors.  The following are excerpts from an article by H.D. Kilgore in 1940. … Continue reading The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697
The proof was in the Kettle - Mark Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to always be in trouble. He was called before the court in 1647 and reprimanded for “sleeping in the barn” rather than watching the cows during his evening shift. He had a reputation in Ipswich for … Continue reading The proof was in the Kettle
Haselelpony Wood, November 27, 1714 - Haselelpony Wood’s tombstone is located at the Old North Burial Ground, just a short distance on the left starting from the front gate. She is believed to be the only person with this name in modern history. John Gee was lost at sea on Dec. 27, 1669, a sad Christmas surprise for his wife and five children. … Continue reading Haselelpony Wood, November 27, 1714
Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation - The Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation on Little Neck Road is dedicated to Greenbelt’s first executive director. The property is primarily salt marsh–a trail through a small section of wooded upland leads to a viewing area and an osprey perch. In addition, the pond next to the Whipple House (formerly known as the Bicentennial Pond) was renamed Sally’s … Continue reading Sally Weatherall Memorial Reservation
Sarah Goodhue’s advance directive, July 14, 1681 - Sarah Whipple Goodhue was born in 1641, the daughter of John and Susanna Whipple and married Joseph Goodhue of Ipswich, with whom she had 10 children. Suspecting that she might die giving birth, she left a note to her husband on July 14, 1681 that read: “Dear husband, if by sudden death I am taken … Continue reading Sarah Goodhue’s advance directive, July 14, 1681
The North Shore and the Golden Age of Cycling - The American popularity of bicycles originated in Boston, which held the first U.S. bicycle race on May 24, 1878. In 1883, Abbot Bassett of Chelsea set out on the first recorded 100 mile bike ride, meandering on an adult tricycle along the North Shore to Ipswich and back home. George Chinn of the Beverly Citizen … Continue reading The North Shore and the Golden Age of Cycling
Anne Dudley Bradstreet, the colony’s first published poet - Anne Dudley Bradstreet and her husband Simon Bradstreet lived in Ipswich from 1634 – 1648 in a primitive home in what could only be considered a wilderness by one so refined as she. She took consolation in her writing, and it was during this time that she wrote a collection of poems published in London in 1650 … Continue reading Anne Dudley Bradstreet, the colony’s first published poet
The women of Chebacco build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679 - In 17th Century New England,  the church was the center of government. Chebacco was the section of Ipswich that is now Essex, and its inhabitants were expected to make the ten-mile round trip every Sabbath, Lecture Day, Training Day or Town Meeting day to the Meeting House in Ipswich. Chebacco residents petitioned the town of … Continue reading The women of Chebacco build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679
The Ipswich Female Seminary - The Ipswich Female Seminary was established in April 1828 by Zilpah Grant and 24-year-old Mary Lyon for the secondary and college-level education of young women. Girls were prepared for careers as teachers and provided with rigorous studies in academic subjects and “standards of personal conduct and discipline.” It was the first endowed seminary for women … Continue reading The Ipswich Female Seminary
Jane Hooper, the fortune teller - This story is adapted from the Reminiscences of Joseph Smith and Reminiscences of a Newburyport Nonagenarian, and brings together no less than four incredible old tales. Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport “school dame” but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune teller and became known in our area as “Madam Hooper, the Witch.” The Madam … Continue reading Jane Hooper, the fortune teller
The tragic story of Rebecca Rawson, 1679 -   The following is from a story told in 1921 by Rev. Glenn Tilley Morse, President of the Historical Society of Old Newbury and Newburyport. Edward Rawson arrived in Newbury in 1637. When he was only twenty-three years old he was chosen town clerk, notary public, and registrar for the town of Newbury. He was … Continue reading The tragic story of Rebecca Rawson, 1679
Lucy Kimball - The following is from Historic Ipswich Vol III by Susan Howard Boice: “This is an old photo of Lucy Ardell Kimball, joined by her mother, Kate, and father, Phillip. Lucy was a descendant of the Jewett, Lord and Kimball families, who were big parts of Ipswich for more than 300 years. Phillip, Lucy’s father, was … Continue reading Lucy Kimball
Two Taverns for Two Susannas - In the 1700’s two of the finest inns in town were run by women, a mother and daughter both named Susanna. Although the two houses are both on corners of County Street, they were separated by the river since the bridge was not built until a hundred years later. In 1725 Increase How purchased “a … Continue reading Two Taverns for Two Susannas
The Amazing Life of Nancy Astor - If you look at an online map you will often see a reference to “Nancy’s Corner” at the intersection of Highland Street and Cutler Road in Hamilton. I started researching who this Nancy was and discovered an amazing story. Nancy Witcher Langhorne was the daughter of a Virginian slaveholder whose family fell into poverty after the … Continue reading The Amazing Life of Nancy Astor
The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Howe - The 1996 movie “The Crucible” is based on Arthur Miller’s award-winning 1953 play about the Salem Witch Trials. It was filmed on Choate Island, part of the Crane estate in Ipswich and Essex. The story and movie are based on accusations against John and Elizabeth Proctor of Salem who had once lived in Ipswich. John Proctor was hung and … Continue reading The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Howe
One Third for the Widow - Under Puritan law an adult unmarried woman was a feme sole, could own property and sign contracts. A married woman was a feme covert and could not own property individually. Widows regained the status of feme sole but the Right of Dower entitled them to keep only one third of their property. When a woman was left a widow some … Continue reading One Third for the Widow
Jenny Slew gains her freedom Freedom for Jenny Slew, November 1766 - Jenny Slew was born about 1719 as the child of a free white woman and a black slave. She married one or more black men who were slaves but lived her life as a free woman until 1762 when she was kidnapped and enslaved by John Whipple of the Hamlet (part of Ipswich that later … Continue reading Freedom for Jenny Slew, November 1766
The Letters of Joseph Hodgkins and Sarah Perkins - The Perkins-Hodgkins house is located at 80 East St on the corner with Jeffreys Neck Road. This First Period timber-frame house was rebuilt in 1709 after the original 1640 thatch roofed home burned when an indentured servant dropped ashes from her pipe on the straw roof. Ownership passed through generations of the Perkins-Hodgkins family to … Continue reading The Letters of Joseph Hodgkins and Sarah Perkins

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