Woman of the Century/Caroline Maria S. Severance
SEVERANCE, Mrs. Caroline Maria Seymour, reformer, born in Canandaigua, N. Y., 12th January, 1820. She is the oldest daughter of a family of five. Her father, Orson Seymour, was of an old Connecticut family, settled in Hartford. His brothers, Hon. H. R. and James S.. were bankers, like himself, one in Buffalo, N. Y., and the other in Auburn, N. Y. Her mother's family was Clarke, of Cayuga, N. Y.. descended on the father's side from a Connecticut family of that name, and on the mother's from an old Knickerbocker family of New York City. After her father's death in Canandaigua, in 1825, the mother returned to her father's ample country-home, which thereafter sheltered for some years five generations. Under the advice of the guardians, the mother returned later, for a year or more, with her children to Canandaigua, they being guests for most of that time of the Hon. J. C. Spencer. Caroline began her school-life in the Upham Female Seminary, the famous school of that vicinity. Her mother lived later in Auburn, N. Y., and Caroline was for a few years a pupil in the boarding-school of Miss Almira Bennett, Owasco Lake, N. Y. Next she was for three years in the boarding-school of Mrs. Ricord and Miss Charlotte C. Thurston, in Geneva, N. Y., where she was "at the front" in her general studies, in French and in English composition, and was valedictorian of her class, in 1836. From Geneva she returned to her mother in Auburn, and was for a time a pupil, and a teacher in a small way, in the Auburn Female Seminary. There her invalid mother made the acquaintance of Rev. Luther Halsey, then professor in the Theological Seminary of the place, and was persuaded by his wife to accompany them to their home on the Ohio, below Pittsburgh, Pa., where she had opened a boarding-school for girls, in which Caroline made a second essay at teaching, for which her natural shyness somewhat unfitted her. There her future husband, J. C. Severance, a banker of Cleveland, Ohio, but of New England birth, secured from her a promise of marriage. They were married in Auburn, N.Y., 27th August, 1840, and commenced housekeeping at once in Cleveland. They remained there until 1855, when they removed to Boston, Mass.. for the education of their children. In Cleveland her sympathetic nature and keen sense of justice soon led her into active fellowship with the earnest Ohio workers in reform movements. The impulse which first took her into public effort came from a visit with the famous Hutchinson Family, to the first Ohio convention for the discussion of the political and educational disabilities of women, held in Akron, Ohio, over which convention "Aunt Fanny" Gage presided, and in which "Sojourner Truth" silenced the callow divinity student who was imperiling the order and success of the meeting. That meeting she reported with much enthusiasm for the Cleveland dailies, and that led to book-reviews and similar work for them, and occasional bits of rhyme. It led also to the request from the newly-formed Ohio Suffrage Association for a memorial to the legislature, which she was asked to present before it. Her interest in that pressing question drew her CAROLINE MARIA SEYMOUR SEVERANCE. later into a little campaigning with "Aunt Fanny" in Ohio and Indiana, and into calling a convention, with her, in Cleveland, during a Republican rally there in 1848. She next attended the Women's Convention in Syracuse, N. Y., and another later in New York City, where she was invited by Wendell Phillips and Rev. Antoinette Brown to join them in attendance also upon a temperance convention then being held in the city, to which Rev. Miss Brown was an accredited delegate, but where permission to sit as such had been denied her because of her sex. Mrs. Severance had formed at Cleveland a life-long friendship with Marie Zakrzewska, M. D., to whom Dr. Elizabeth Black well had given a letter, that she might get her degree in the Cleveland Medical College, then open to women, later Mrs. Severance was made a substitute for Mrs. Oakes Smith, whom she with a committee of women had requested the Young Men's Library Association of Cleveland to include in its lecture course. Her paper. "Humanity; a Definition and a Plea," was given to an immense audience of her townspeople, was repeated in the Parker Fraternity Lecture Course in Tremont Temple, Boston, soon after her removal there in 1855, and was in both places the first lecture by a woman in those popular lecture courses of the time. In Cleveland her sympathies and her literary tastes had brought her into acquaintance with the scholarly and thoughtful persons who went west on missions of literary or philanthropic work. In Boston she found herself enlisted in the vigorous work of the anti-slavery movement and the kindred one for women. She was there elected an officer of the Parker Fraternity Lecture Course, the first and only woman officer in it, and was pressed into repeating before it her Cleveland paper, when Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whom she had proposed, had failed to appear. She was active in organizing and served upon the board of the New England Women's Hospital. She aided in organizing the New England Woman's Club, of which she was first president, and through a committee of which the first steps were taken in the present wide-spread movement for a reform of woman's dress. She was active in the organization and work of the Woman's Congress, before which she read in 1882 a paper on the "Chinese question," a paper written in the light of her years of experience in California, and of careful research into the literature of the question and into the action of the government under its treaties with that nation. She was active in the organization and work of the Moral Education Association of Boston, and in the Woman's Educational and Industrial Union. She removed with her husband to southern California in 1875, in the wish to make a home for the two sons already there for its climate, and with a longing for its more quiet life. She has been president of the Channing Club of Unity Church, Los Angeles, and one of its board of trustees; is president of the Free Kindergarten Association, through which nine kindergartens have been made a part of the public school system of that city; is president of the nourishing Friday Morning Club of two-hundred women members and of a promising Women's Exchange, and is serving on the board of the city free library. She is the mother of five children, four of whom lived to maturity, and three of whom still live. Both Mr. and Mrs. Severance feel strongly that their length of days and unusual health, while each had inherited tendencies to nervous weakness and to lung disease, are proof, by their entire disuse of drugs or stimulants in either food or drink, that these are not essential to long life nor to high health. Their home is still in Los Angeles, the center of a circle of relatives and of their later-formed friends.