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Cambridge Women's Heritage Project

~ J ~


Jacobs, Harriet A.
Jacobs, Sarah Sprague
Johnson, Grace A (Fitch)
Jones, Alice (Palache)


Harriet A. Jacobs (b. ca 1813 in Edenton , North Carolina; d. March 7, 1897 in Washington D.C.)
Abolitionist, escaped slave
     Born into slavery in North Carolina, to Deliah Horniblow and Daniel Jacobs. She and her brother John were orphaned at a young age and became the slaves of the Norcom family. In order to avoid the sexual attentions of her new owner “Dr Flint”, she formed a liason with a white man and bore him two children but became fearful of their future when her lover “Mr Sands” (a future congressman) failed to free her children. She escaped from her lover’s house in 1835 and spent the next seven years hiding in an attic above the storeroom in the house of her grandmother (a freed slave) and coming out only to see her children who lived in the house. During this period of hiding, she read, wrote and sewed. In 1842, Jacobs seized the opportunity to flee to New York City, where she worked as a nursemaid and saved money to arrange for her children’s freedom.
     Harriet, having bought her children’s freedom, moved to Boston with them in 1845. In 1849, she moved to Rochester, and then to New York City to which her brother had also escaped. There she worked for Cynthia Willis who bought her freedom for three hundred dollars after Jacobs was frightened by hearing of the arrival of her former owner in that city. A Quaker abolitionist, Amy Post, urged her to write the full story of her life. Returning to Boston, she began to write her biography, entitled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself. It was then edited by Lydia Child, a well known Boston-area writer who had strong abolitionist beliefs. Jacobs traveled to London to try to sell her manuscript, and it was finally published in 1861. After the civil war, she lived in Cambridge for five years, renting a house on Trowbridge street that she ran as a boarding house for two years for Harvard students from 1870 to 1872. She then spent three additional years in a house on the corner of Story and Mount Auburn streets before moving to Washington D.C., where she spent the rest of her life.
References: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself (London 1861) reprinted as Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Simon & Schuster 2003)
Harriet Jacobs online site by Julie Adams http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/JACOBS/hj-timeline.htm

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Sarah Sprague Jacobs (b. March 17, 1813 in Cranston RI, d. 14 May 1902 in Cambridge)
Politician (one of first two women elected to Cambridge School Committee); Teacher; Author; Poet; Copy Editor
     Born in Cranston, Rhode Island, Sarah Sprague Jacobs was the eldest child of the Reverend Bela Jacobs and Sarah (“Sally”) Sprague Jacobs. Rev. Jacobs was the first pastor of the First Baptist Church at 5 Magazine Street; he occupied the pulpit there from 1818 to 1833. In 1835, he became pastor of the new Second Baptist Church, but died tragically in May 1836, aged 51, when he was thrown from a carriage. In 1837, Sarah Jacobs published a memoir of her father. She also wrote many poems published in various sources, as well as a number of books for young people, including Nonantum and Natick (Boston 1853), a history of the Indian tribes of New England and the missionary work of John Eliot among the Indians.
     From 1818 to 1909, the Jacobs family resided at 19 Pleasant Street, a sizable wood-frame house built for the Rev. Jacobs. After he died, his widow and children continued to live there; later, nieces and nephews expanded the household. Sarah Jacobs left Cambridge to teach in Georgia, New York, Rhode Island, and Nova Scotia. It is not known when she left the city, nor the year she returned, but she was again residing in Cambridge by 1870.
     The 1870 federal census records Sarah living with her mother, Sarah, and sister Annie in the household of her brother, Justin Allen Jacobs. Also residing in the house were Sarah's sister-in-law, also Sarah, and Eliza Williams, a domestic servant. By 1900, the household was considerably smaller, comprising Sarah, her sister, a young nephew, Allen, and their servant, Mary Needham. Sarah Sprague’s brothers were well known in Cambridge. Justin Allen Jacobs became City Clerk (and briefly City Auditor); Bela Farwell Jacobs was an attorney and warden at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. A niece, Isabel, was an assistant at the Cambridge Public Library; her nephew, Allen, became the assistant pastor at Christ Church.
     In 1879, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law allowing women to vote in school committee elections. That same year, Sarah Sprague Jacobs (at about age 66) and Phebe Mitchell Kendall became the first two women elected to the Cambridge School Committee. Miss Jacobs served until 1885, when she resigned.
     Jacobs transcribed Cambridge's earliest public records and prepared the copy manuscripts for publication in two volumes. The first was The Register Book of the Lands and Houses in the "New Towne" and the Town of Cambridge with the Records of the Proprietors of the Common Lands being the Records Generally Called "The Proprietors Records (1896), and the second volume was The Records of the Town of Cambridge (Formerly Newtowne) Massachusetts 1630-1703(1901). This laborious undertaking no doubt consumed many years of her time. She was 83 years old at the time of the publication of the first volume and 88 years old when the second volume was published. She died at home on 14 May 1902 age 89 years and was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
References: Virtual American Biographies http://www.famousamericans.net/sarahspraguejacobs; Appleton’s Encylcopedia of American Biography (1888); Cambridge Vital Records; City of Cambridge Annual Reports; Federal Census; prefaces to the Proprietors Records and Records of the Town of Cambridge.

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Grace A (Fitch) Johnson (b. Sept 29, 1871 in Maples, Indiana. d. Jan 17, 1952 in Cambridge)
Social activist, suffragist, political leader
     Grace Allen Fitch was born in Indiana to Elizabeth Harriet (Bennett) and Appleton Howe Fitch who were from New England Grace Fitch’s family soon returned to Hopkinton, MA. She went to public school and then attended Pratt Institute Library School in Brooklyn, where she worked as assistant reference librarian for a year after her graduation in 1891. She met her future husband, Lewis Jerome Johnson, a Harvard graduate, while studying botany at Harvard Summer School, marrying him in 1893. In 1894, the couple moved to Cambridge, MA where her husband joined the Harvard Engineering Department. She had two sons. She became interested in woman suffrage and served as president of the Cambridge Political Equality Association. In 1912, she was one of three Massachusetts women delegates to the Progressive Party national convention. In 1912 to 1914, she was president of the Cambridge Public Schools Association and, after working with the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, became a member of the national council of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and by 1917, she was chairwoman of the Massachusetts branch. In 1919-1920, with Mary P. Sleeper, she edited A Citizen's Guide for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government.
     Grace Johnson became interested in the League of Nations and in 1925 she was a member of the board of the Massachusetts League of Nations Association and in September of 1926, she went to Geneva to attend the commissions, council, and assembly of the League of Nations. During this period she was also a lecturer at Garland School for Homemaking until 1940 and became president of its, Board of Trustees. She also lectured at Wheelock Kindergarten Training School, the Boston University School of Education, and at the Massachusetts Department of Education, University Extension school. Grace Johnson published a number of articles and books on the League of Nations including (with Sir Herbert Ames) The Case of China and Japan before the League of Nations: A Dramatization of the Events of 1931-1933 (1933). She worked for proportional representation in Cambridge (Plan E) and testified on prohibition before the U.S. Congress. In 1940, she represented Massachusetts before the Woman’s Centennial Congress and after the Second World War, she supported the United Nations.
References: Grace A Johnson papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute. http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch01027

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Alice (Palache) Jones (b. April 12, 1907 in Cambridge, Mass.; d. June 12, 1989 in Mount Kisco, New York)
Bank vice president, birth control advocate
     Alice (Palache) Jones, daughter of Charles Palache and Helen (Markham) Palache, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1907 Her father was a professor of Mineralogy at Harvard and her mother taught at the Buckingham girl’s school in Cambridge, which was organized by her sister, Jeannette (Markham) Scudder. Palache's early life was spent on Appleton Street in Cambridge.
     She attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1928. In the summer of 1927, she took a trip through Europe with her fellow classmate Katharine Hepburn, whose financial advisor she would later become. On graduation, Alice at first worked at Scudder, Stevens, & Clark for two years. Then she was hired by Margaret Sanger as executive director of the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control (1930-1933), a society founded by Sanger in 1929 to fight the federal Comstock laws against birth control. The society disbanded in 1936, after Judge August Hand ruled that birth control information was not “obscene”.
     Palache then joined the Fiduciary Trust Company of New York as a trainee in 1933, where she remained until 1974, rising to the position of senior vice president. She was also a director of the Dreyfus Third Century Fund, an investment fund. Before her retirement, she oversaw the move of the Fiduciary Trust to the World Trade Center.
     Palache married Russell Kennedy Jones, an advertising executive and co-author of The Cruising Cookbook, on December 21, 1954. She and her husband lived in the town of North Salem, New York, where she served as a trustee of the North Salem Free Library and as a member and the chair of the North Salem Planning Board. She also served on the Bryn Mawr College board of directors from 1951. Some of her correspondence and information about her early life is in the Schlesinger Library in the Palache family papers.
References:
Palache family papers, Schlesinger Library, finding guide
“A P. Jones” New York Times obituary June 13, 1989
P hotograph of Alice Palache and Katharine Hepburn at Bryn Mawr in the 1920s, Schlesinger Library collections

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Cambridge Women's Heritage Project
December 2012

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