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Isabel Chapin Barrows
Born April 17, 1845
Irasburg, Vermont
Died October 24, 1913
Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Alma mater Adams Academy, Derry, N.H.,
Woman's Medical College, New York, New York
Occupation Stenographer
Religious beliefs Unitarian
Spouse(s) William Wilberforce Chapin d. 1865,
Samuel June Barrows
Children Mabel Hay Barrows[1] (m. Henry Raymond Mussey.)

Isabel Chapin Barrows (April 17, 1845 - October 24, 1913) was the first woman employed by the United States State Department. She worked as a stenographer for William H. Seward in 1868 while her husband, Samuel June Barrows, was ill.[2] She later became the first woman to work for Congress as a stenographer.[3] Barrows was also one of the first women to attend the University of Vienna to study ophthalmology, and the first woman to have a private practice in medicine in Washington, D.C..

Contents

Early life and education

Born to Scottish immigrants, Henry Hayes and Anna Gibb on April 17, 1845, in Irasburg, Vermont, Katherine Isabel Hayes was the fifth of seven children.[4] After receiving her primary education in Derry, New Hampshire, Isabel enrolled at the Adams Academy originally run by Zilpah P. Grant Banister and Mary Lyon.[5] She graduated from Adams Academy in Derry, N.H., She married William Wilberforce Chapin in Derry, N.H. on September 26, 1863.[6]

First marriage and early misionary work

In 1868 she when she was 18 she accompanied her husband William Chapin[7] to India were they worked as missionaries[8] in Ahmednuggur.[9] William Wilberforce Chapin [10] died in 1865 in Ahmednuggur, leaving her a widow at the age of nineteen. Although she had lost her partner and the original reason for initially traveling to India, Isabel stayed on and completed her missionary work and returning to the United States six months later[11].

Second marriage

Starting up a life on her own she moved to Dansville, New York and became a bath assistant at a water-cure sanatorium. At the sanatorium she was trained in hydropathy and incidentally met the man who was to become her second husband, Samuel June Barrows[12]. Ending her work at the sanatorium, Isabel and Samuel became engaged in 1866 and the couple moved to New York City[13]. On June 28, 1867, Isabel Chapin was married in Brooklyn, NY by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher to Samuel June Barrows.[14]

Later Life

Isabel began to study shorthand in addition to her medical studies while Samuel worked as a stenographer. Soon after this move however they were uprooted and moved to Washington D.C. after Samuel was offered a job as secretary for the Secretary of State William H. Seward. The next summer Samuel came down with an illness and Isabel filled in for him making her the first woman to officially work for the State Department[15]. After accomplishing her first “first” Isabel left Samuel in Washington to continue at his position there while she went back to New York City in 1869 and enrolled at the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. She then went abroad for the second time to study ophthalmology at the University of Vienna. Once she completed her studies, Isabel returned to Washington to begin a private practice of her own and to become a professor of ophthalmology at Howard University’s School of Medicine, becoming the first woman to open a private practice in D.C. and the one of the first women professors at Howard. In addition to these two careers she continued working as a stenographer primarily for congressional committees[16]. Following a previously made agreement, after completing her education, Samuel enrolled at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Isabel continued on at all her positions in Washington stopping only just before the birth of their first child, Mabel Hay Barrows. Shortly after her move to Cambridge, the Barrows made yet another move to Liepzig, Germay where both Isabel and Samuel took up various studies. Isabel focused on Italian, French, and German, while Samuel took courses in music and political economy. A year later, they returned to the United States and moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts for Samuel to become a Unitarian pastor at Meeting House Hill. Soon after beginning his career as a pastor, Samuel became editor of the weekly Christian Register. Isabel continued to aid him in his work helping him edit on a regular basis in addition to working on her own pieces. Although her life was filled with tasks helping her husband, Isabel managed to become and active member in prison reform and other various charities and religious organizations. For numerous years she acted as stenographer and as an editor for a multitude of conferences including the National Conference of Charities and Correction and the National Prison Association[17]. 1896 brought the election of Samuel to Congress but he was subsequently defeated in the election for his second term. Instead of returning to prior career choices, he became the secretary of the Prison Association of New York and again moved the Barrows family, this time to Staton Island, New York. Isabel continued her work in prison reform and other activities across the nation, primarily delivering speeches for her cause[18]. Even abroad she held some semblance of authority. In 1909 she went to St. Petersburg, Russia in order to petition for the release of Catherine Breshkovsky, who was being held as a Russian revolutionary. While she was overseas however, Samuel died. After shortly returning to New York for the funeral, Isabel returned to Russia to continue pleading for Catherine Breshkovsky’s release. Following this escapade abroad she took Samuel’s place at the International Prison Congress in Paris[19].

Death

Isabel Barrows continued her work vying for reform, primarily in prisons, and on other issues, both national and international. Writing novels, newspaper articles, and speeches, her influence was enormous in both social and political scenes. Isabel died on October 25, 1913 in Croton-on-Hudson, New York[20].

References

  1. ^ Lamb, Daniel Smith (1900.), Howard University Medical Department, Washington, D.C.: A Historical Biographical and Statistical Souvenir, Washington, DC: Howard University Medical Department, p. 117.  
  2. ^ Balakian, Peter (2004). The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. Harper Collins. pp. 15–17.. http://books.google.com/books?id=DrYoyAM3PBYC&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=isabel+barrows&source=web&ots=wreyo9Xck8&sig=eJohTgVabyZUHxiskPnCkzDCp8M#PPA16,M1. "By virtue of her talent at the new "science" of stenography, she was called on in 1868 to fill in for her ill husband, June, then secretary to William Seward, President Andrew Johnson's Secretary of State..."  
  3. ^ Pepper, Bryan; Wetmore, Misty.:. "Gender Images of Congressional Life from Behind the Typewriter". http://www.ou.edu/special/albertctr/extensions/spring2000/gender.html. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  
  4. ^ Lamb, Daniel Smith (1900.), Howard University Medical Department, Washington, D.C.: A Historical Biographical and Statistical Souvenir, Washington, DC: Howard University Medical Department, p. 117.  
  5. ^ Mount Holyoke College, “Adams Female Academy Records, 1824-1830”, http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/col/msrg/mancol/ms0503r.htm.
  6. ^ Hewitt, John Haskell (1914.), Williams College and Foreign Missions: Biographical Sketches of Williams College Men who Have Rendered Special Service to the Cause of Foreign Missions, Boston, MA., New York, N.Y., Chicago, IL.: Pilgrim Press, p. 484.  
  7. ^ Mrs. Isabel C. Barrows, New York, NY: The New York Times, October 26, 1913., p. 15.  
  8. ^ Mrs. Isabel C. Barrows, New York, NY: The New York Times, October 26, 1913., p. 15.  
  9. ^ MARRIED, New York, NY: The New York Times, June 29, 1867., p. 5.  
  10. ^ Mrs. Isabel C. Barrows, New York, NY: The New York Times, October 26, 1913., p. 15.  
  11. ^ Thadeus Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” in American National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 2:246
  12. ^ Thadeus Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” in American National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 2:246
  13. ^ Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” 2:246; Ogilvie and Harvey, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, 85.
  14. ^ MARRIED, New York, NY: The New York Times, June 29, 1867., p. 5.  
  15. ^ Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” 2:246; Ogilvie and Harvey, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, 85.
  16. ^ Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” 2:246; Ogilvie and Harvey, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, 85.
  17. ^ Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” 2:246; Ogilvie and Harvey, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, 85.
  18. ^ New York Times, “Unitarian Women’s League”, Pg. 11, March 7, 1897, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, http://proquest.umi.com
  19. ^ Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” 2:247; Ogilvie and Harvey, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, 85.
  20. ^ Russell, “Isabel Barrows,” 2:247; Ogilvie and Harvey, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, 85.

Bibliography

  • Balakian, Peter.: The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, 2004 p. 16.
  • Barrows Isabel Chapin.: "A Sunny Life: The Biography of Samuel June Barrows" 1913.
  • Pepper, Bryan; Wetmore, Misty.: Gender Images of Congressional Life from Behind the Typewriter. Retrieved on 2007-12-19.
  • Lamb, Daniel Smith.: Howard University Medical Department, 1900 p. 117.
  • Hewitt, John Haskell.: Williams College and Foreign Missions: Biographical Sketches of Williams College Men who Have Rendered Special Service to the Cause of Foreign Missions, 1914, p. 484.
  • Stern, Madeleine Bettina.: SO MUCH IN A LIFETIME; The story of Dr. Isabel Barrows, New York: Messner (1964).
  • The New York Times Mrs. Isabel C. Barrows, October 26, 1913., p. 15.
  • The New York Times MARRIED, June 29, 1867., p. 5.
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