Woman of the Century/Sarah Brown Ingersoll Cooper

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COOPER, Mrs. Sarah Brown Ingersoll, educator, author and evangelist, born in Cazenovia, N. Y., 12th December, 1836. She was graduated from the Cazenovia Seminary in 1853. She subsequently attended the Troy Female Seminary. When but fourteen years of age she opened a Sunday-school class in a village adjoining Cazenovia, and that class was the germ which finally grew into a church congregation. When she started her school some of the committeemen came to her and told her that, while they believed her to be qualified in every way to teach, at the same time they would all like it better if she would go home and lengthen her skirts. When twelve years old, she appeared in print in the village paper, the "Madison County Whig," and from that time to the present she has been more or less engaged in literary work on papers and magazines. After her graduation from college she went to Augusta, Ga., as a governess in the family of Governor Schley. On the Governor's plantation there were five-hundred or more slaves, and Mrs. Cooper, then Miss Ingersoll, used to gather them about her to teach them the Scriptures. While in Augusta she became the wife of Halsey Fenimore Cooper, also a Cazenovia Seminary graduate, who had been appointed by President Pierce to the office of surveyor and inspector of the port of Chattanooga. Mr. and Mrs. Cooper were living in Chattanooga at the breaking out of the Civil War, but soon after removed to Memphis, where Mr. Cooper was appointed assessor of internal revenue. There Mrs. Cooper was elected president of the Society for the Aid of Refugees. She taught a large Bible class, which comprised from one to three hundred soldiers. In 1869 she removed with her husband to California. Her first Bible class in San Francisco was in the Howard Presbyterian Church, where Dr. Scudder was filling SARAH BROWN INGERSOLL COOPER.jpgSARAH BROWN INGERSOLL COOPER. the pulpit. From there she went to the Calvary Presbyterian Church, and still later opened the class in the First Congregational Church. That class numbered over three-hundred members and embraced persons representing every sect, including even those of the Jewish and the Roman Catholic faith. While the credit of establishing the first free kindergarten in San Francisco is due to Prof. Felix Adler and a few of his friends, yet the credit of the extraordinary growth of the work is almost entirely due to Mrs. Cooper, who paid a visit to the Silver street free kindergarten in November, 1878, and from that moment became the leader of the kindergarten work and the friend of the training school for kindergarten teachers. The rapid growth of the free kindergarten system in California had its first impulse in six articles written by Mrs. Cooper for the San Francisco " Bulletin " in 1879. The first of these was entitled "The Kindergarten, a Remedy for Hoodlumism," and was of vital interest to the public, for just at that time ruffianism was so terrific that a vigilance committee was organized to protect the citizens. The second article was "The History of the Silver Street Free Kindergarten."' That aroused immediate interest among philanthropic people. In the early part of 1878 there was not a free Kindergarten on the western side of the Rocky Mountains; to-day there are sixty-five in San Francisco, and several others in progress of organization. Outside of San Francisco they extend from the extreme northern part of Washington to Lower California and New Mexico, and they have been formed in Oregon, Nevada and Colorado, and in almost every large city and town in California. In a recent report issued by Mrs. Cooper she attributes the rapid strides in that work in San Francisco to the fact that persons of large wealth have been induced to study the work for themselves, and have become convinced of its permanent and essential value to the State. The second free kindergarten in San Francisco was opened under the auspices of Mrs. Cooper's Bible class, in October, 1879. In 1882 Mrs. Leland Stanford, who had been an active helper in the work from the very first, dedicated a large sum for the establishment of free kindergartens, in San Francisco and in adjacent towns, in memory of her son. Then other memorial kindergartens were endowed. There are now (1892) thirty-two kindergartens under the care of Mrs. Cooper and her daughter, Miss Harriet Cooper. Over $300,000 have been given to Mrs. Cooper to carry on this great work in San Francisco, and over 10,000 little children have been trained in these schools. Her notable and historical trial for heresy in 1881 made her famous as a religious teacher and did much to increase the wide interest in her kindergarten work. Mrs. Cooper is a philanthropist and devotes all her time to benevolent work. She is a director of the Associated Charities, vice-president of the Pacific Coast Women's Press Association, an active member of the Century Club and the leader of one of the largest Bible classes in the country. She possesses great heroism, but is quiet, magnetic and exceedingly sensitive and sympathetic. She is one of the best-known and best-loved women on the Pacific Coast. She was elected a member of the Pan-Republic Congress, one of five women of the world who had that distinguished honor.