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Isabella Beecher Hooker

Isabella Beecher Hooker (February 22, 1822 – January 25, 1907) was a leader in the women's suffrage movement and an author.


Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, she was a daughter of Reverend Lyman Beecher, a noted abolitionist. Among her half brothers and sisters were Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Catharine Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was educated at several different schools founded by her sister, Catharine.

In 1841 Isabella married John Hooker, a young law student whom she met at Catharine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary, and whose family had founded Hartford, Connecticut. The newlyweds lived in Farmington, Connecticut, for about ten years, then moved back to Hartford and bought a large sum of land. They built houses for themselves and sold lots to prominent figures of their time, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain. They had four children:

  1. Thamas Beecher Hooker born & died 1842
  2. Mary Beecher Hooker (15 August 1845 – 20 January 1886) married Eugene Burton
  3. Alice Beecher Hooker (26 August – 21 April 1928) married John Calvin Day
  4. Edward Beecher Hooker (26 February 1855 – 23 June 1927), married Martha Kilbourne 18 September 1879

She became curious about the workings of the law system early in her marriage to John Hooker. Her husband first sparked this curiosity by reading to her from William Blackstone. In these readings it describes the marriage between a man and a woman. It states that “the woman has no separate legal existence”. She was further influenced by John Stuart Mill's works such as "The Enfranchisement of Women", his essay, and "The Subjection of Women".

In 1868, she helped organize the New England Women's Suffrage Association, and her "Mother's Letters to a Daughter on Woman's Suffrage" was published in Putnam’s Magazine.

She furthered her involvement with the suffrage movement by organizing the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association, lobbying the Connecticut legislature for 7 years in favor of a married women's property bill drafted by her husband.

In 1871 she organized a convention in Washington, D.C., to present a constitutional amendment for suffrage before Congress. During that time she became involved with free love advocate Victoria Woodhull, who would take her to spiritual gatherings where Isabella became convinced she would “lead a matriarchal government of the world.” She even took the side of Woodhull against her own family. Woodhull posted accusations towards Hooker’s half-brother, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, accusing him of committing adultery with a woman named Elizabeth Tilton. Isabella was shunned for the rest of her life by much of her family for her actions. She was unwelcome to attend his funeral sixteen years after the publication of the accusations.

In 1874, she published "Womanhood: Its Sanctities and Fidelities".


  • Willard, Frances Elizabeth, and Mary Ashton Rice Livermore. "Hooker, Mrs. Isabella Beecher" American Women Fifteen Hundred Biographies with Over 1,400 Portraits : a Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century. New York: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1897. (pp. 390-91) googlebooks Accessed February 3, 2008

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