Rhoda Mead, an Exciting Life in the 1800s, from Franklinville, NY

A Nineteenth Century Modern Woman - Rhoda Mead.

Women born in the 1800s in America had few options as to choice of lifestyle or career.  Society expected them to marry, be wives and mothers and to be taken care of by their husbands.  Those who did not marry lived at home with their parents or in the households of family members usually acting as nursemaids to children in the household or as housekeepers.

Women did not have the right to vote.  If they worked their salaries were given to their husbands. Money received through inheritance also became his property.  The husband had the right to make all decisions regarding his children.

Education was not deemed necessary for a woman and few continued on past learning how to read and do simple math.  Few careers were available with the exception of teaching young children, being a seamstress, running a small shop, domestic work and trying to survive brutal work in factories. Their wages never equaled that of men.      

This was the world that Rhoda Mead came into in 1833.  She was one of eight children of Merlin and Polly Mead.  The family moved to Franklinville and then to the hamlet of Cadiz.  Both parents had been school teachers in New York City.  Although their children started school in Cadiz, they were given the opportunity to travel and attend higher educational institutions.  Their son Aaron attended school in Waterbury, Connecticut where he lived with relatives.  Rhoda went to New Haven, Connecticut where she was described as a model student.

After her school years, she taught for several years.  But she was determined to go to Europe and be on her own.  She fell in love with Paris and Switzerland and finally became a teacher of English in a boarding school in Wurttenberg, Germany to 50 girls.

She was an avid letter writer and as a result gives us a picture of her life.  The school was run by a severe professor who considered all Americans to be barbarians and robbers, according to Rhoda.  She was paid $1 a week and expected to chaperone, teach and do chores.  He would receive all their mail and sometimes delay delivering it to them for weeks.  Although she loved her students she decided one winter there was enough for her.

From information in the files of the Ischua Valley Historical Society.  Submitted by Maggie Fredrickson, Village of Franklinville Historian.

Tags: Tag Municipality: