March is Women's History Month! To celebrate, dive into the life and legacy of women who left their mark on Albany County and beyond. Albany's 400 year-old history features many notable women, but scroll on to learn about women from Albany's past with ties to four local historic sites.
Harriet Myers and her husband Stephen Myers were the central Underground Railroad activists in the Capital Region during the 1850s. The couple's home at 194 Livingston Ave in Albany welcomed freedom seekers and served as a meeting place for abolitionists. Harriet was an active participant in welcoming and caring for freedom seekers in her home and would often manage these efforts while her husband was away for work. She advocated for women's rights and requested aid for freedom seekers to safely embark on their new lives. Learn more about the life and legacy of Harriet Myers with a new exhibit titled, "Yours for the Oppressed, Harriet Myers," on display at the Myers Residence, operated by the Underground Railroad Education Center, through June 2021. The exhibit celebrates Black Women activists and features a handwritten letter by Harriet from 1860 detailing the role of female abolitionists, as well as information about Underground Railroad activism and the Capital Region's political climate. Call (518) 621-7793 before visiting. Masks are required.
Follow the Underground Railroad Education Center on Facebook for more information on Harriet Myers and for more stories about women activists and freedom seekers.
Historic Cherry Hill, located on South Pearl Street in Albany, was home to five generations of the Van Rensselaer family. After a decade of restoration work, the historic home is currently being refurnished to the tastes of Catherine Rankin, the home's fourth-generation mistress. Catherine was the great-granddaughter of Cherry Hill's first occupants, Philip and Maria Van Rensselaer and she grew up at the historic home. During the 1880s, the family lost everything (including the house!) so Catherine and her husband lived as tenants until they could afford to buy it back. After the Rankins bought Cherry Hill back, Catherine worked endlessly to restore the mansion to its "colonial splendor" and preserve her family's legacy. Catherine had three children, Herbert, Elmendorf and Emily (all pictured above). The Rankins, particularly Emily, were ardent anti-suffragists during the turn of the century. Catherine and Emily were both heavily involved in Albany's preservation community by preserving the Van Rensselaer family's legacy at Crailo and by working to establish Schuyler Mansion as a historic site. Emily was the final Cherry Hill descendant and she bequeathed the home and its contents to “the people of New York State.”
Learn about more women in the Van Rensselaer-Rankin family on Historic Cherry Hill's website.
Happy #NationalSistersDay! Did you know there were more than three Schuyler sisters? In honor of Angelica, Eliza, Peggy, Cornelia, and Caty, this thread is full of some fun facts about the girls and the bond they shared. pic.twitter.com/GycBrGBSEo— Schuyler Mansion (@SchuylerMansion) August 5, 2018
The Schuyler Sisters
Angelica, Eliza and Peggy, dubbed "The Schuyler Sisters" in a song from the Broadway hit musical Hamilton, were born and raised in Albany. They were the eldest three daughters of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler and Catharine Van Rensselaer. Their parents raised eight children in Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, a Georgian-style mansion in Albany's South End. Eliza married Alexander Hamilton on December 14, 1780 in one of the mansion's elegant parlors. Eliza was an inspirational philanthropist who founded New York's first private orphanage and opened the first school in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood. She was also instrumental in preserving her husband's legacy following his death. Angelica, the eldest Schuyler Sister, married English-born businessman John Barker Church. She spent many years living abroad and entertaining royalty, diplomats, and artists. Throughout her life, she maintained correspondence with prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson. Margaret (aka "and Peggy!") married Stephen Van Rensselaer III, a wealthy patroon from an extremely influential family and founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. The couple is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery, along with her father Philip Schuyler.
Check out the "Women of Schuyler" section of the Schuyler Mansion's blog for more stories about the women of the mansion, beyond the trio of Schuyler Sisters!
Discover Eliza Schuyler Hamilton's Albany features historic sites in Albany with a connection to Eliza! (Please note: The scavenger hunt is no longer active)
Led by Mother Ann Lee, the Shakers were one of the most significant communal religious societies in American history. The Shakers were founded in England, but left for America after Ann Lee had a vision to take her followers there. In the late 1700s, the Shakers settled in America at the site of Shaker Heritage Society, nestled in modern-day Colonie. Despite violence and persecution in America, Ann Lee continued to preach her beliefs during a time where few women were religious leaders. She passed away at the age of 48 in 1784, but her successors continued to persevere. Today, the Shakers are recognized for their tremendous influence on American cultural identity through their social, commercial and technological innovations, decorative arts and design. Mother Ann Lee is buried in a cemetery on the Shaker Heritage Society grounds.
Visit Shaker Heritage Society's blog for stories about the women of the Shaker community and for more information about Ann Lee.