Isabella Beecher Hooker

Isabella Beecher Hooker
"Every woman has rights as a human being first, which belong to no sex, and ought to be as freely conceded to her as if she were a man."
- Isabella Beecher Hooker

Induction Category:
Reformers

Born: 1822

Died: 1907

Inducted: 1994

Town: Litchfield and Hartford

Isabella Beecher Hooker’s long and respected career as a suffragist and reformer was launched in her husband’s law office in Farmington, Conn. At age 19, she had married John Hooker, a descendant of Hartford founder Thomas Hooker. She soon became a frequent visitor to his office while he waited for clients to bring him business. Upon reading William Blackstone with her husband, Isabella came across a passage that both horrified her and transformed her life: According to Blackstone, a married woman and man were as one person under the law. Thus, marriage actually suspended a woman’s legal standing and, in the eyes of the law, a wife had no rights independent of her husband. From that moment, Isabella Beecher Hooker dedicated her life’s work to the enfranchisement and empowerment of women.

Isabella Beecher was born into the prominent Beecher family in 1822, in Litchfield, Conn., the daughter of the Reverend Lyman Beecher and his second wife, Harriet Beecher. Her older half-sisters included the author Harriet Beecher Stowe and education reformer Catharine Beecher. At the age of 15, Isabella was sent for schooling to Catharine’s Hartford Female Seminary, where she met John Hooker, whom she married in 1841. They moved to Nook Farm, Hartford’s 19th-century literary colony, after the birth of two daughters and a son.

Beecher Hooker became involved in the cause of women’s suffrage, and through her work, was introduced to numerous activists including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1869, she founded the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association and served as its director for 36 years. Two years later, she organized, at her own expense, a suffrage convention in Washington, D.C. “for the purpose of calling the attention of Congress to the fact that women were already citizens of the United States under the Constitution, interpreted by the Declaration of Independence, and only needed recognition from that body to become voters.” In addition to lobbying Congress, she also assumed a leading role in planning women’s rights conventions throughout Connecticut, and fought for a married women’s property bill, which she introduced to the state Legislature for seven years until its passage in 1877.

Isabella Beecher Hooker became involved in spiritualism in her later years and a family scandal severed ties with many of her siblings, including Harriet Beecher Stowe. Nevertheless, she continued her efforts on behalf of women’s rights and suffrage until her death in 1907, and was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.


During This Time
1800 - 1920: Industrialization & Reform