Cover

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xv

This study of what one reader has called “the upstairs long missing from women’s history” began with a modest paragraph in an issue of the Rockefeller Archive Center Newsletter announcing that a collection of about 5,000 letters of “Mrs. Russell Sage, philanthropist (1828–1918)” had been processed by Melissa Smith...

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A Note on Sources

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pp. xvii-xx

Multimillionaires attract a lot of correspondence. Olivia Sage received so many begging letters that by 1912 thousands of them had accumulated in the closets of the Charities Building, the New York headquarters of the Charity Organization Society. In June of that year a COS official wrote to Robert de Forest...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

In the summer of 1910, Olivia Sage, the 82-year-old widow of financier Russell Sage, known to the world as Mrs. Russell Sage, set off for the airfield at Mineola on New York’s Long Island to witness the first flight of an airplane designed by a woman, a plane built with her sponsorship. Its inventor E. Lilian Todd had attracted national attention at the 1906...

Part I. A Liminal Place: 1828–1869

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pp. 11-11

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1. Slocums, Jermains, Piersons—and a Sage

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pp. 13-30

Among the hundreds of purchases Olivia Sage made when she inherited the fortune of her financier husband in 1906 was an investment in image and self-representation that has gone unnoticed by scholars. Along with the donations to schools and hospitals, missions and colleges, she commissioned a family history, the best that money could buy and one befitting a person who was about to become a benefactor of national...

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2. “Distinctly a class privilege”: Troy Female Seminary, 1846–1847

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pp. 31-44

The nineteenth century saw a dramatic growth in American higher education for girls as well as boys. By the 1880s, one-third of girls attended high school, and by 1890, more girls than boys were graduating. The number of women enrolled at institutions of higher education also increased, to 11,000 in 1870 and 56,000 in 1890, by which date they constituted over one-third of all college students.2 But...

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3. “I do enjoy my independence”: 1847–1858

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pp. 45-66

Graduation was now behind her, but Olivia stayed on in Troy where she had relatives and friends. She was still at her Uncle Hiram’s house when her father stopped off on his way to New York, where he was to embark for another business venture. At Troy, he heard unexpected and disturbing news. “I learned with surprise from both her...

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4. A Bankruptcy, Three Funerals, and a Wedding: 1858–1869

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pp. 67-81

By January 1858, Olivia was back in Philadelphia, boarding at the home of her pastor, Rev. Henry A. Boardman, on Spruce Street and fulfilling the duties of governess and companion to his daughter Mary. A native of Troy, New York, and a graduate of Yale and of Princeton Seminary, Henry Boardman had served as minister of the Tenth Presbyterian Church at 10th and Walnut...

Part II. Becoming Mrs. Russell Sage: 1869–1906

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pp. 83-83

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5. The Work of Benevolence? Mrs. Russell Sage, the Carlisle School, and Indian Reform

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pp. 85-104

The newly married pair lost no time in moving to New York. The night boat took them down the Hudson to the city, and they moved into the brownstone residence at 506 Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Ninth Street where Russell Sage had lived since 1863 with Maria, his first wife.2...

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6. “I live for that work”: Negotiating Identities at the New-York Woman’s Hospital

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pp. 105-126

This chapter examines Olivia Sage’s involvement between 1871 and 1900 with the New-York Woman’s Hospital, a combination public-private institution for the treatment of women’s diseases. For modern feminist historians this institution is profoundly troubling. The surgeries that made it famous had been developed in the 1840s by physician J. Marion Sims through experimental surgery on the bodies of...

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7. “Some aggressive work”: The Emma Willard Association and Educated Womanhood, 1891–1898

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pp. 127-150

In the 1890s Olivia became involved with two women’s organizations, both of which provided an arena for useful work and a way to speak out on public issues: the Emma Willard Association and the New York Exchange for Women’s Work. These organizations had different constituencies and different goals. The first was an association of graduates of Troy Female Seminary. They came together...

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8. Converted! Parlor Suffrage and After

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pp. 151-168

In 1897, the fiftieth anniversary of her graduation from Troy Female Seminary, Olivia received a presentation copy of a slim pamphlet, The Parable of the Ten Virgins,3 from fellow alumna Elizabeth Cady Stanton.4 The gift had been carefully chosen. Stanton, now over eighty and retired from the presidency of NAWSA, was a veteran woman’s ...

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9. “Wiping her tears with the flag”: Mrs. Russell Sage, Patriot, 1897–1906

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pp. 169-190

Individuals construct meanings and fashion identities in the spaces and with the language and dreams available to them at a given time in history. Middle- and upper-class white women, who were still barred from many public arenas at the turn of the century; classed as less than full citizens by enlightenment notions of the rational...

Part III. “Just beginning to live”: 1906–1918

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pp. 191-191

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10. “A kind of old-age freedom”

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pp. 193-215

On May 11, 1906, James D. Phelps, secretary and financial administrator for Syracuse University, was in New York on personal business: his wife was going to Philadelphia to visit her sister and had to change trains in the city. Phelps accompanied her to New York, then he set off toward the Sage brownstone at 604 Fifth Avenue on another mission, one aimed to raise money for the university.2 Syracuse...

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11. Inventing the Russell Sage Foundation: 1907

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pp. 216-237

The commonly accepted view of the origins of the Russell Sage Foundation divides credit between its brains (Robert de Forest) and its heart (Olivia Sage). “It is fortunate that those who, like Mrs. Sage, have the means and the desire to benefit others, can be reached by men like yourself who can wisely counsel and direct...

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12. “Women and education—there is the key”

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pp. 238-258

At the same time that the Russell Sage Foundation was being established, Olivia began to respond to the thousands of appeals directed to her. What causes would she support? The public expected the widow of Russell Sage to give large amounts to good causes of all kinds, but especially to women’s education. One sympathetic observer believed he had...

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13. “Nothing more for men’s colleges”: E. Lilian Todd and the Origins of Russell Sage College, 1916

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pp. 259-269

In 1916 Olivia announced her determination not to give any more money to men’s colleges, turning down an appeal from male-only Rutgers College, even though it was affiliated with her own Reformed Church. That same year, she founded Russell Sage College, a vocational college for women in Troy, New York, designed to aid women’s entry into...

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14. “Splendid Donation”

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pp. 270-293

Earlier chapters have described the great dramatic gifts that made Sage philanthropy famous—the endowment of $10 million to the Russell Sage Foundation, the millions more to universities, colleges, and schools. In addition to these donations, Olivia gave generously to organizations and causes of all kinds, carrying on a complex private philanthropy that...

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15. “Send what Miss Todd thinks best”

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pp. 294-311

In 1915, Olivia addressed a note to Lilian that was intended to end the demands for money from individuals and institutions in Troy, New York. From our point of view, the note is important because it is evidence that Olivia remained mentally alert in her old age. Though the writer was approaching eighty-eight the thought is cogent, the writing steady and clear. Her gift of $100,000 for a dining room to Rensselaer...

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Conclusion

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pp. 312-316

Women’s activism in the nineteenth century was not the sole possession of radicals and free thinkers, nor was it confined to working or middle-class women. Activist women occupied different social locations and political contexts. At one end of this spectrum, white women of the upper class were surprisingly active in public debates. Although they usually stayed within...

Abbreviations

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pp. 317-319

Notes

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pp. 321-483

Select Bibliography

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pp. 485-511

Index

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pp. 513-526