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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Susan Bednar

Women’s History Month: Celebrating Historical Women of the Hudson Valley

Even if you’re a tourist passing through town, stopping by the library is an exciting endeavor: inside there are grab & go pamphlets (like this one), events, town information, and many other resources to aid in planning your trip. If you're visiting one of our properties, check out the local library (in Woodstock, Tannersville, and East Chatham) or nearby libraries (in Hudson and Catskill).

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are sharing an abbreviated stories from the 2022 release of Didi Barrett’s “Women’s History in the Hudson Valley: Ten Stories from Columbia and Dutchess Counties”. Assembly member of the Poughkeepsie Library, Barrett empathizes on the importance of recognizing the significant works of historical women in the Hudson Valley, quoting: "Our history is filled with countless women who fought for their rights, made their voices heard and changed the fabric of American society. Many of them continue to break barriers to this day. And yet, despite the extraordinary achievements of women, far too many of their stories have been overlooked. While their names may not yet appear in history books, we are proud each year to recognize and share the invaluable contributions these Hudson Valley pioneers have made to make a difference in our lives and world.” Physical copies of the 2023 pamphlet may be picked up at participating libraries in the Hudson Valley, including the Hudson Library. Digital copies or all previous pamphlets are available online for downloading (links below).

Courtesy of the Office of Assembly member Didi Barrett 12 Raymond Ave., Suite 105 Poughkeepsie, NY 12603 845-454-1703 420 Warren St. Hudson, NY 12534 518-828-1961

Top Row (from left to right): Minnie Catherine Allen, Sally Good Church, Ruth Piwonka, Nancy H. Smith Claverack, Dora B. R. Thorne

Bottom Row (from left to right): Gertrude S. Cooper, Sadie Peterson Delaney, Shannon M. Kent, Cecelia Magill, Lucinda Franks

Minnie Catherine Allen | Mount Lebanon | 1852-1922

Allen grew up with the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society, in love with the community lifestyle. Throughout her life, she would become a prominent member of the community and activist advocating for the rights of women and animals. To educate non-Shakers on the lifestyle and values of the community, Allen published “A Full Century of Communism, The History of the Alethians, formally called Shakers” in 1897. As the first elderess in the Central Shaker Ministery, Allen preserved countless Shaker documents and artifacts by donating them to libraries and museums, making it possible to learn about the history of the Shakers and the contributions they made to the Hudson Valley.

Sally Good Church | Hudson | 1868-1964

Sarah Baker Good (nicknamed Sally) grew up within a very affluent family in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Her family was good friends with the prominent Church family, and Sally would go on to become engaged to Frederic Church’s son, Louis. The couple was the first to inherit Olana Estate, preserving the property through the rest of their lifetimes. Due to their steadfast efforts to keep the property to Frederic’s vision, Olana was eventually listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, becoming the Olana State Historic Site in 1966.

Ruth Piwonka | Kinderhook | 1940-2021

Having spent most of her youth in Kinderhook, NY, Ruth had fallen in love with the Hudson Valley. She went on to pursue her passion of history, only to become Kinderhook’s Chief Historian and Executive Director of the Columbia County Historical Society. As a committed environmentalist and public servant, Piwonka served as a Trustee of the Village of Kinderhook on the village zoning board. Her dedication to the town led her to becoming the first Executive Director of the Columbia County Land Conservatory. In 2020, Piwonka was awarded the Martha Washington Woman of History by the Washington State Historic Site Headquarters. This award commemorates the significant contributions to a woman has made through education, promotion, and preservation.

Nancy H. Smith Claverack | Hudson | 1932-2021

Smith became a resident of the Hudson Valley in the 1960s after taking a job with Columbia Greene Community College. She served as an educator of psychology and anthropology for a couple decades. In 1980, Smith acted upon her interest in the pursuit of social equality by serving as the Cambodian Field Director for the American Friends Service Committee through which she coordinated several rehabilitation programs. In 1990 she joined the team of Oxfam-UK, overseeing various development programs while advocating the rights of Afghan women right after the Taliban took over. Over the years she participated in an anti-nuclear power group and led weekly vigils for peace in Hudson, NY. Her passion advocating for women and oppressed peoples remained her life’s mission all the way through to the end.

Dora B. R. Thorne | Chatham | 1920-2019

Thorne developed a passion for art through her veteran service with the United State Marine Corps in World War II, where she served as a draftsman at the Quantico Marine Corps Base. She went on to graduate from Pratt Institute in NYC and earned a BFA from the University of Albany in 1971. She went on to teach art to the next generation along with operating Thornecrest Poultry Farm with her husband in Chatham NY. She was an active member of the American Legion Post 42 and in the Daughters of the American Revolution, taking pride in her years of service in WWII.

Gertrude S. Cooper | Hyde Park | 1889-1977

Childhood best friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Cooper would go on to make history as the first female Superintendent in the National Park Service. She traveled the world with her husband Dexter P. Cooper (a prominent engineer), until his passing in 1938. Cooper settled in Hyde Park, becoming neighbors with Eleanor and her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was through this connection that in 1940 Cooper was appointed Superintendent of the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. Until 1945, she managed the mansion and property grounds, eventually becoming Director of Greenwich House. This organization’s mission was to alleviate poverty in NYC. Cooper worked tirelessly until eventually retiring to Killington, Connecticut.

Sadie Peterson Delaney | Poughkeepsie | 1889-1958

With a diploma from the Poughkeepsie High School and a degree from the College of the City of New York in 1919, Delaney took her passion for literature and made a career of it. She attended the New York Public Library School where she received library training. She played a major part of developing the African American collection of New York’s Library, which opened in 1925. Her radicalism efforts included running programs to teach reading to at-risk youth and the blind community. Delaney went on to become the head of the library at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, host to a community of patients who had physical/mental disabilities. She used innovative bibliotherapy (therapeutic use of storytelling) to help patients learn to read (including teaching the blind to read Braille), and continued to share her knowledge until her passing in 1958.

Shannon M. Kent | Pine Plains | 1983-2019

A multi-passionate young woman from Pine Plains, Kent foraged a unique path in public service. After enlisting in the Navy in 2003, Kent became a qualified cryptologist and a highly skilled intelligence professional. She joined the Joint Special Operations Command missions where she played an integral role in the capture of enemy insurgents. Completing the substantial training and deployment, Kent achieved a position on a Navy SEAL support team. During her 15 years of service in the Navy, Kent earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology and was accepted into a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. Even with a diagnosis of cancer, Kent continued to fight the good fight. She lobbied for a change in medical regulations at Congress, and was once more deployed to Syria to locate ISIS cells. After the bombing of Manbij, Kent became the U.S. military’s first female to die in combat since the start of ISIS. She was awarded the Bronze Star, and is one of three women to have their name engraved on the National Security Agency’s Cryptologic Memorial Wall in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Cecelia Magill | Poughkeepsie | 1918-2003

Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, Magill had a passion to stand up for civil rights within her community. After being denied employment on a racially prejudice basis from the Schatz Federal Bearing Company in 1942, she alerted the federal government by working with the Catherine Street Community Center. After government intervention, Schatz released a statement promising to have a hiring policy “without regard to race.” Magill’s success in fighting racial segregation in Poughkeepsie was vital to the development of the town and in the battle for equality.

Lucinda Franks | Hopewell Junction | 1946-2021

With an English degree from Vassar College in 1968, Franks began work as a journalist to cover beauty pageants at the United Press International. While traveling alone in Northern Ireland, violence broke out. It was here where she reported through active war zones, despite female journalists being barred to do so through the UPI’s policy. Eventually she was transferred to New York City, where she worked on a five part story with author Thomas Powers on the left-wing militant organization Weather Underground, an organization/faction of Students for a Democratic Society. The story was published in 1970, winning the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. This made Franks the first woman to win this award, along with the notoriety for being the youngest person to achieve the award at the age of 24.

We hope you enjoyed this historical dive into the featured women of the Hudson Valley in honor of Women's History Month. Thank you for reading.

the {verdigreen} hotels team

Looking for somewhere to stay in the Hudson Valley? Check out one of our three upstate properties in Woodstock, Tannersville, and East Chatham.


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