Woman of the Century/Harriette M. Plunket
PLUNKETT, Mrs. Harriette M., sanitary reformer, born in Hadley. Mass., 6th February, 1826. Her maiden name was Harriette Merrick Hodge. The town, though a community of farmers, had the unusual and perpetual advantage of an endowed school, Hopkins Academy, which early in the century was a famous fitting school, and even after its prestige as such was eclipsed by Andover and Exeter, it still afforded exceptional opportunities to the daughters of the town, who could better be spared from bread-winning toil than the sous. HARRIETTE M. PLUNKETT. There Miss Hodge obtained her early education, alternating her attendance in school with terms of teaching in the district schools in her own and adjoining towns, till, in 1845, desiring to improve herself still farther, she became a pupil of the Young Ladies' Institute of Pittsfield, Mass.. at that time one of the leading schools in the country. There, in 1846, she was graduated, being one of the first class who received diplomas. She taught m the school a year, and then became the wife of Hon Thomas F. Plunkett. Theirs proved a remarkably happy union, which lasted twenty-eight years, till his death in 1875, during which time she was principally absorbed in domestic duties and the care of a large family. In 1869 he had a very important share in the establishment of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, the first State board established in this country. Mrs. Plunkett became greatly interested in sanitary matters through her husband's influence, and was especially anxious to awaken in the women of America an interest in the theory and practice of household sanitation. She was convinced that, if the women of the country would inform themselves of what is needed, and see that it is put in practice, there would be a great gain in the saving and lengthening of life and in making it more effective and happy while it lasts. To promote that cause she wrote many newspaper articles, and in 1885 published a valuable book "Women, Plumbers and Doctors," containing practical directions for securing a healthful home, and she probably would have continued to fulfill what seemed a mission to her, had not a great calamity befallen her only son, Dr. Edward L. Plunkett In his twenty-first year, while studying to become a mechanical engineer, he became totally blind. After the first shock and grief were passed, he resolved to study medicine and enrolled himself as a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York, his mother becoming his reader and constant assistant Through the use of pictures and models, she was enabled to make herself his intelligent helper, and by taking a five-year course instead of the usual three, he was graduated with honor and at once set about the instruction of medical undergraduates in the capacity of "coach" or "quiz-master," a work to which he brought great enthusiasm and indomitable will, and in which he had achieved notable success, when, in 1890, after a week's illness, he died. The work to which Mrs. Plunkett had dedicated herself having thus fallen from her hands, she at once resumed her pen and returned to sanitary subjects, though at the same time producing other articles, political, educational and aesthetic, for various magazines and journals. One on the increasing longevity of the human race, entitled "Our Grandfather Died Too Soon," in the "Popular Science Monthly," attracted wide attention. Her leaning towards the prevention and healing of disease is ever conspicuous, and she is probably most widely known in connection with the establishment and growth of a cottage hospital in Pittsfield, Mass., called "The House of Mercy," started in 1874, of which she is president. It was the first one of its class, to be supported by current contributions from all religious denominations, in this country. She belongs to the great army of working optimists.