Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mystery Woman of Wednesday: A Contest

Mystery Woman was born in 1802 in what is now the United States. Like many women of her era, she did not go to school. Instead, she learned about healing and herbal medicines from her mother and local natives. She married in 1820. She continued her work as healer, and also started to farm -- raising cattle and vegetables while raising her seven children.

Her husband drank, and did little to support their growing family. Eventually, he became physically abusive, and in 1836, she finally left him. When he tried to force her back, she sought a protective order to stay free.

Mystery Woman was left to support her seven children on her own. She sold meat and vegetables, and continued to see the value in property ownership. In about 1844, she bought a 4400 acre parcel for $300. By law, she was still married, and her husband could claim everything. Women had little or no property rights in her day. She obtained a legal separation to protect her holdings. She continued to grow her business and raise her family.

Then, in 1852, the United States government challenged her ownership of her land -- as they did with all early land holders in this state. Mystery Woman fought back. Her case made its way to the Supreme Court. Eventually, the high court ruled in her favor. Mystery Woman is now recognized as a true pioneer -- a savvy business woman -- a woman who wasn't afraid to fight for what was rightfully hers.

122 years after her death, her house still stands -- barely -- and it is still a lightning rod for dispute. The wood-framed, rammed-earth and adobe structure sits in an affluent neighborhood, and is one of the oldest homes in this state. Despite being designated a State Historical Landmark in 1954, the place is a shambles -- open to the elements for ten years, a victim of neglect and the forces of nature.

Local preservationists are fighting to save the structure from demolition. In 2008, a county judge ruled against the city, which is seeking to raze it. The appeals court overturned that decision, paving the way for its destruction.

If you know our Mystery Woman, submit your answer to by midnight Wednesday, April 6. Winner will be chosen from all correct answers received by this date, and will receive a book from the America's Notable Women series. (Authors who have participated in this series are not eligible.). We'll reveal the Mystery Woman's identity and announce the winner on Thursday, April 7.

Do see a list of eligible candidates, you can check out the list of Notable Women for each state at Apprentice Shop Books . Good luck!


Andy said...

I love a good mystery! Fun stuff, Janet.

Mur said...

Hey, you didn't tell the Sisters you'd visited Mystery Woman's house when you traveled to Mystery Place during Mystery Month! Great pictures, too!

I'm Jet . . . said...

Ah, yes, Mur. I can be verrrry mysterious!