Timeline 1861 – 1882: The Bellows Era, Part 2: All Souls and the Civil War

1861 – The Civil War began when gun batteries in Charleston, SC, fired on Fort Sumter. The fort surrendered the following day, and President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to defend the Union.

1861 – Sarah Bedell Cooper (1795–1865), wife of Peter Cooper, and Louisa Lee Schuyler (1837–1926), also a member of All Souls, were involved in organizing a meeting to discuss what women could do to support the Union troops in the Civil War. A reported 3,000 to 4,000 women attended the meeting, which was held at Cooper Union. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was another of the organizers, was the country’s first female physician, and was also a Unitarian.

Meeting of the Ladies of New York at Cooper Union, 1861, by Frank Leslie.

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1861 – The Woman’s Central Association of Relief for the Army (WCAR) was formed in response to the meeting at Cooper Union. The WCAR provided nursing in field hospitals, sewing, knitting, equipment and medical supplies. The WCAR was a vital force in collecting supplies and funds totaling more than $1 billion to support the Union troops. In the process, as its female managers traveled around the country and negotiated with civic organizations and businesses, the WCAR provided its workers with unique opportunities to operate outside traditional expectations for women.  

 

1861 – Rev. Bellows traveled to Washington to convince President Lincoln to establish the United States Sanitary Commission, following the huge gathering assembled by the women of All Souls at Cooper Union. Precursor of the American Red Cross, the Sanitary Commission offered medical assistance and supplies like clothing, food and blankets to the Union Army throughout the Civil War.

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1863 – Louisa Lee Schuyler became the secretary of the Woman’s Central Association of Relief for the Army. Under her guidance the association quickly developed into the largest and most effective auxiliary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. In 1871 Ms. Schuyler turned her mind to the problem of public charity, and in 1872, with a group of like-minded associates, she formed the State Charities Aid Association (SCAA), which she envisioned as an umbrella organization for local groups of volunteer visitors interested in the inspection and improvement of prisons, poorhouses, workhouses, public hospitals, and schools. While working to establish and extend the work of the SCAA and to gain the state’s formal recognition, Schuyler also devoted much time to her particular local interest, Bellevue Hospital and the Bellevue Training School for Nurses, which opened in 1873. She fought for legislation for better treatment of the mentally ill and epileptics. In 1907 she became a trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation. Louisa Schuyler received many honours and awards for her lifetime of service, and received an honorary degree in 1915 from Columbia University.

Louisa Lee Schuyler, by Leon Bonnat, 1879.
New-York Historical Society.

1863 – Rev. Olympia Brown (1835-1926), Universalist and suffragist, was the first woman ordained as a minister by any denomination in the US. After graduating from Antioch College and St. Lawrence University Theological School, she was ordained by the Universalist Church. Rev. Augusta J. Chapin (1836-1905), was also ordained as a Universalist minister the next year.  

 

1863 – Herman Melville and his family moved back to New York from Massachusetts and rented a pew at All Souls.

Unfortunately, the life of Herman and Lizzie Melville was a difficult one and full of turmoil. The oldest of their four children, Malcolm, shot and killed himself at 18, and their second son, Stanwix, died of tuberculosis. In 1867 Mrs. Melville, in desperation, wrote to her minister, Rev. Bellows, asking him for help in dealing with her husband, who was drinking too much and who she thought was possibly insane. Since a wife could not leave her husband without losing all claims to the children, her brother, with Rev. Bellows' help, came up with a scheme in which Mrs. Melville would visit her family in Boston, and then they would inform Herman that she was not coming back. To get a divorce, she would have to bring charges of insanity against him. However, they soon all realized that the scheme was unworkable, and ended up advising Lizzie to show forbearance. She decided to follow their advice, and stayed with Herman until his death in 1891. He was not highly regarded as a writer in his lifetime, and became a recluse, but his wife was active in the life of All Souls until she died in 1906. 

 

1863 – Rev. Henry Bellows met with fifty or sixty ladies of the All Souls congregation and other Unitarian churches, to start planning a Metropolitan Fair to raise funds and supplies for the Union Army. Rev. Bellows, as President of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, had written a paper arguing for the importance of the fair and how it should be carried out. He wrote: “To be Metropolitan, the Fair must be on a National scale - its magnitude and results worthy of the occasion, the place, and the necessity. It must be universal. Enlisting all sympathies from the highest to the lowest; democratic, without being vulgar; elegant, without being exclusive; fashionable, without being frivolous; popular, without being mediocre. In short, it must be inspired from the higher classes but animate, include, and win the sympathies and interest of all classes.” All Souls ladies had long been active in church sewing circles, fairs and bazaars. The response to Bellows’ appeal was immense. Other cities, too, like Chicago, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, held huge fairs and competed to see which one could raise the most money. The New York Fair raised about $1,000,000. It was held in a large space on 14th Street near Union Square. Rev. Bellows noticed that one of the most popular displays was the art from the private collections of wealthy New Yorkers. As a result, soon after the war, the Union League Club, which Rev. Bellows helped organize, established a committee to examine the potential for creating a public art institution. From the vision and actions of that committee emerged the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

1864 – Caroline Kirkland (1801-1864), All Souls member, editor and writer, helped to organize the New York Metropolitan Fair in support of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. She was a member of the Fair's Committee on Arms and Trophies, which organized one of the largest and most popular exhibits. She had also participated in organizing the Boston Sanitary Fair.    Unfortunately, exhausted by months of non-stop work, she died quietly in her sleep two days after the fair opened. Mrs. Kirkland was one of the first authors to write realistic fiction about the American frontier; she and her husband went west as settlers for several years, and from her letters home emerged her first book, A New Home, Who’ll Follow? She gave birth to six children, three of whom died in childhood. In 1843 the family returned to New York City, where, in offices in our second church building, her husband founded and edited the journal The Christian Inquirer. In 1846 he drowned in a tragic accident, and at age 45 Kirkland found herself responsible for the family's support. She set to work on a career as an editor and writer. Her work was immensely popular during her lifetime, but she faded into obscurity after her death. However, with the rise of the women's movement in the 1960s, Caroline Kirkland came to be recognized as a precursor of Mark Twain for her satire and her use of the vernacular.

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Caroline M. Kirkland.

1865 – Union of the Unitarians with the Universalists was first proposed. The proposal was put forward at the first meeting of the National Conference of Unitarian Churches.  

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The Crowded Car [Henry Bergh stopping an overcrowded horsecar], by Sol Eytinge, Harper’s Weekly, 1872.

​1866 – Henry Bergh, All Souls member, founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In 1863 he had been appointed to the American Legation at the court of Czar Alexander II in Russia, by President Lincoln. While there, he became more sensitized to the abuse of animals, at one point stopping a carriage driver from beating his fallen horse. When he returned to New York he used his wealth and prestige to raise public awareness of the suffering of animals. At that time, horses were starved, beaten and denied regular watering, while domestic animals were often not given regular food or shelter, and dogfights, cockfights, and bear-baiting were common forms of entertainment. Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and must be protected under the law. Bergh went on lecture tours to garner support, and was involved in a wide variety of issues, including slaughterhouse practices, animal transportation, care of horses, elimination of vivisection, cockfighting and dogfighting, and the abolition of the use of live pigeons in shooting matches. In 1875 he also helped to found the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.