Tombstone Tuesday - Elizabeth Oakes Smith

Elizabeth Oakes Smith headstone in Lakeview Cemetery, Patchogue, New York. Photo by Mary Ellen Gorry 30 June 2009.

I was wandering around Lakeview Cemetery in Patchogue, New York in June 2009, looking headstone by headstone to see if my Ricklefs family, who moved from the city to a farm there in the 1920s, were possibly buried there. At that time, I didn't have a date of death for either John or Meta and so had no death certificate, where you can usually find a place of burial. But I did have an afternoon to kill, so I drove out there and walked around for a couple of hours. I came home with no more info on them, but with a killer sunburn.

Anyway, I like to look at names as I cemetery-wander, and taking photos of names and headstones that interest me, and I came across this - a woman named Elizabeth Oakes Smith, "a lecturer, reformer, and poetess," a "woman of vision and of courage." I had never heard of her, but apparently at the time of her death she was quite important, at least locally so, so this being the 21st century and all, I googled her as soon as I got home, and guess what? I got some hits.

She was born in Maine in 1806 and between the 1830s and 1880s she seems to have been a somewhat well-known feminist writer. She was married to magazine editor and humorist Seba Smith, had six sons, and continued to write across many genres and many forms of media, but most passionately about women's rights.

She and Seba moved to New York City in 1838. In 1859, they retired to rural Patchogue, much as my Ricklefs would 65 years later. She died in 1893.