Very Truly Yours: The Eliza Ann Woodard Hurd DeWolfe Letters, 1860-1862

Very Truly Yours: The Eliza Ann Woodard Hurd DeWolfe Letters, 1860-1862

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  • Handmade
  • Materials: printed magazine

Zine 2 in the Undertold Histories Series
40 pages

CATEGORIES/THEMES
history, feminism, women's rights, lesbian history, United States, Washington State, Washington Territory, Olympia, San Francisco, marriage

SYNOPSIS/ZINE INTRO
Eliza Ann Woodard emigrated to Olympia, Washington Territory with her extended family in early 1853. She married respected butcher James Hurd in 1855, and the couple had two children before James died in the fall of 1857. In the spring of 1859 the Hurd’s infant daughter Alice died. Eliza lived independently with her young daughter Ella, renting out her properties and working as a dressmaker. Eliza’s father Harvey Rice Woodard served as Ella’s guardian until 1859, indicating Eliza or her family may have worried about her being a single parent or that Eliza herself was ill.

Eliza’s grief did not crush her optimism. She found solace in Spiritualism, a new religion which encouraged communication with the spirit world. By early 1860, Eliza befriended fellow Spiritualist Seattleite Sarah Burgert Yesler. Sarah, wife of Seattle millwright Henry Yesler, had arrived in Washington Territory in the summer of 1858 after being separated from her husband for seven years. In her absence Henry had a long-term affair with the Duwamish hereditary chief’s daughter Susan, and the couple had a daughter. Sarah’s only son Henry George died at the age of twelve in the summer of 1859.

With less than one-thousand American women residing between Olympia and Seattle it is easy to see how Eliza and Sarah would become fast friends: Like many mothers of the time, they both experienced devastating loss in their families. They were both Spiritualists from the Midwest, and would go on to become suffrage leaders in the 1860s. And perhaps because they were not hindered by oppressive traditions and sought happiness and health, they were both the subject of local gossip. The pair exchanged letters and visits from at least March 1860 to June 1862. Historians have suggested Eliza and Sarah had a romantic affair but their letter exchange only truly reveals a close, supportive— and occasionally naughty in a Victorian kind of way— friendship between two intelligent ladies.

In the course of their letters, Eliza met and married Charles Henry DeWolfe, a sensational character in Northwest history who was not accepted by Olympia’s conservative society. The DeWolfe family left Olympia only days after the marriage.

Over the next twenty years, the Yeslers continued to build their industrial empire and became highly influential Seattleites, while the DeWolfes lectured around the Northwest and maintained water cure establishments in Victoria and San Francisco. As Sarah frequented San Francisco for business in the 1860s to 1880s, it is possible that the pair maintained their relationship until Sarah’s death in 1887.

This zine features copies of the original letters, transcriptions of the letters, and local historical images. Photos of Eliza have not yet been discovered.

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1 shop review

5 out of 5 stars
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Sonia Labby Jan 12, 2021

5 out of 5 stars

The book is interesting. It includes photographs of articles and pictures, which give us a clear insight of how media portrayed women's role. I really enjoy reading this book and would recommend to anybody who is interested in women's history and feminism.

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