This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which guaranteed women’s constitutional right to vote. To mark this milestone and celebrate Women’s History Month, the Bedford Historical Society is sharing the stories of five women who helped found the Historical Society in 1916. Here is an abbreviated summary of their biographies. More information is available about these women, as well as the four men who founded the Historical Society, at bedfordhistoricalsociety.org.
Edith Leonard Colgate
Ms. Colgate was born in New Jersey on Sept. 13, 1881, and grew up in New York City. She and her husband, Lathrop, moved to Bedford in 1906 shortly after marrying and had one daughter. Ms. Colgate and her family lived in the David Hays House and owned the Post Office and Lounsbery Building. They rented the Lounsbery Building to the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.
In her will, she left generous bequests to many local groups. Her strong interest in safety and the historic preservation of the buildings around the Village Green, conservation and beautification earned her the title of “Mrs. Bedford.” She was elected to Bedford’s first Board of Fire Commissioners and was the only female commissioner until the 2000s. The fire department’s first fire truck was named after her. She was also a founding member of the Bedford Garden Club and the Bedford Museum. She died in 1969.
Sarah F. Williamson
Sarah was born in Bedford on Dec. 21, 1862, during the early stages of the Civil War. She lived her entire life in the same house located east of the Village Green. Her ancestry dates back to 1680, and she was a descendant of one of the founders of Bedford, Nathan Clark.
Ms. Williamson lived in the house bearing the sign “English and Classical Family School for Boys,” which her father founded. She attended classes in this school and later entered the Bedford Female Seminary on Court Road.
She is credited with maintaining Bedford’s historical records going back to the Revolution. She was the go-to person for all local resident genealogical and historical inquiries. Her home was filled with antiques and Bedford memorabilia. Ms. Williamson also was a founding member of the Bedford Museum.
She died in 1940.
Delia W. Marble
Born on April 16, 1868, Delia was the daughter of Manton and Delia Marble. Her father was the editor of The New York World. After her mother died in 1873, She was sent to Bedford to live with her aunt, Susan Marble, and her grandfather, Joel Marble. Through a tutor, she met Dr. Britton, head of the New York Botanical Gardens and worked with him for several years.
Ms. Marble was a founding board member of the District Nursing Association. She was credited as the “founding mother” of Rippowam School, consulting with the organizers based on her experience with the District Nursing Association and the Women’s Land Army. She also was a founding member of the Bedford Garden Club and active in the Bedford Farmers Club.
Professionally, she was employed by the geology department of Barnard College as the curator of rocks.
Despite moving to a farm in Germantown, she frequently returned to Bedford and remained involved with garden club projects. She died in 1951.
August Bates Day
Augusta Day was born in Manhattan in 1854 to Maria and James Bates. Her father was a descendant of John Bates, one of the original settlers. She grew up in Bedford in the house her father built.
She and her husband, James, were summer residents of Bedford, on property next to her parent’s house. The Bates owned 10 acres of land on the southern side of Pound Ridge Road, which extended back to the Mianus River. Water was conveyed to their home though a lead pipe that originated in a spring on Edith and Lathrop Colgate’s land.
In addition to being a founding member of the Bedford Historical Society, Ms. Day also was a founding member of the Bedford Museum. Ms. Bates and her husband were strong supporters of the District Nursing Association and the Bedford Fire Department. They were members of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and were interred at St. Matthew’s Cemetery. She died in 1927.
Adelaide B. Baylis
Ms. Baylis was born June 28, 1883, to Adelaide E. and William Baylis. Her grandfather, on her mother’s side of the family was John Brooks, one of the “Brooks Brothers.”
She commanded the American Red Cross Ambulance Service and Motor Corps in New York in World War I, and was national director of motor transport for the American Women’s Voluntary Services during World War II. In WW I, she was a captain in the New York State Home Defense.
Ms. Baylis was a former assistant and associate in bacteriology at New York Post Graduate Medical School and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.
She helped establish a trade school for disabled children in 1908.
Among her other accomplishments, she was the national women’s foil fencing champion in 1912.
She died in 1965.