Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911
In Memoriam; Elizabeth Smith Miller by A. S. B. [Alice Stone Blackwell]
Mrs. Elizabeth Smith Miller died May 22 at her beautiful home, Lochland, Geneva, N. Y., aged 88 years.
Elizabeth Smith was born at Hampton (the Fitzhugh homestead), Livingston County, New York, September 20, 1822. Her grandfather, Peter Smith, was Jacob Astor's partner in the early fur trade with the Indians. Her father, Gerrit Smith, was a noted philanthropist and abolitionist. A great land-owner, he gave away more than a thousand farms to poor men, most of them to Negroes. He might have made his own that fine saying of Sir Charles Grandison's, "I will never be a richer man than I ought to be." Elizabeth's mother was Ann Carroll
Soon after her birth her parents returned to the Smith homestead at Peterboro. She received her early education at home under tutors and governesses, and later attended a manual training school at Clinton N. Y., and the Friends' School at Philadelphia. At this Quaker institution she learned the simplicity of dress that she practised through life.
A writer in the New York Tribune says:
"It must have been a delightful home, that great mansion at Peterboro over which Gerrit Smith and his wife Nancy presided, and of which Elizabeth was the only daughter. Here came the great abolitionists to discuss the cause that burned at their hearts; here came members of the old Dutch aristocracy; here came charming Southerners, drawn by the mistress of the house, who was Southern by birth. Gerrit Smith's hospitality was boundless, and he was, as cordial to the representatives from the Oneida tribe of Indians who made a pilgrimage every year to visit him as he was to Garrison, Phillips, Judge Alfred Conkling, John Brown and Lucretia Mott. It was in such an atmosphere of generosity that Elizabeth grew up, an atmosphere, moreover, enlivened by endless and most animated arguments on the burning topics of the day."
To those who knew her only in her serene and venerable age, it is strange to read that in her girlhood I she was full of fun, and that when she was 16 she was ridiculed by her father for her lack of interest in woman's rights!
On Oct. 18, 1843, she married Charles Dudley Miller, a banker of Cazenovia, N. Y., afterwards Col. Miller of the 129th regiment. They lived for some years at Cazenovia, then at Peterboro, and in 1869 moved to Geneva, where Mrs. Miller has made her home ever since.
In 1851, while living at Peterboro, Mrs. Miller designed the so-called Bloomer costume. She wore it on a visit to the home of her cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who approved of it. Mrs. Amelia Bloomer of Seneca Falls, editor of "The Lily," adopted it, and the public called it by her name. The dress was so much more comfortable and convenient than the ordinary long skirts that Mrs. Stanton, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony and other reformers wore it for a time, but all finally gave it up because of the unpleasant attention it drew upon them.
Mrs. Miller, who was warmly encouraged in wearing it by her father and her husband, kept on longer than any of the rest; but at the end of seven years she, too, abandoned it.
Mrs. Miller had always been an accomplished housekeeper. She had a natural aptitude for it, and had had long training in managing her father's hospitable home at Peterboro. At Geneva she saw many "gentlewomen," as gpod cooks as herself, living in a rich fruit region in narrow circumstances because custom forbade ladies to earn money. Mrs. Miller began to put up marmalade, jellies, etc., for the market. Her family were rich and much respected, and after she had set the example, other women felt that they could follow and became comfortable and prosperous. Mrs. Miller cleared about $1,000 by her orange marmalade, and judicious investment made it $2,500. She used the money for benevolent purposes, especially lending it out to help young women to get an education.
Two years ago she arranged that it should go to put up a drinking fountain in Geneva.
Mrs. Miller wrote a cook-book, "In the Kitchen," which has gone through many editions and is still in demand. Lucy Stone, the founder of The Woman's Journal, herself an admirable housekeeper, regarded it as the very best book of its kind. Mrs. Miller also compiled a "Chimes Calendar."
She was warmly interested in the temperance, anti-slavery and woman's rights movements, and was the patron saint of the Ontario County suffragists. It was on her initiative that the State Suffrage Convention was held in Geneva in 1897. This resulted in the organization of the Geneva P. E. Club, of which Mrs. Miller was honorary president till her death. Every spring there was a great "Piazza Party" for the suffragists at Lochland when the wonderful wistaria vine that overhung the broad veranda there was in bloom. She was a regular attendant at State and National Suffrage Conventions, a picturesque and much-loved figure, in her characteristic bonnet and long cloak.
She was much interested in the William Smith College, the new affiliated college for women in connection with Hobart College. Its first dormitory was named the Elizabeth Smith Miller House, and a portrait of her hangs in the drawing room.
She inherited her father's hospitality, and her home at Lochland was always a resort of reformers and a haven of refuge for tired and troubled souls, as well as a centre of enjoyment to hosts of relatives and friends. It has been well said of her, "She recognized the importance of woman's functions in the home, and gave her own home a distinction by its attractiveness, its simple but elegant comforts, and by the gentle spirit of hospitality and high thinking which pervaded it."
Mrs. Miller was an interested reader of The Woman's Journal, and a generous friend to the paper.
She was beautiful in youth, and beautiful in age--delicate, slender erect as a dart, with wisdom and kindness shining in her brown eyes; exquisitely neat in her dress, and fond of the most delicate colors, pale pink or baby blue, which never seemed too young for her, but fitted her as appropriately as its plumage fits a bird. She looked like some gracious spirit. Her executive ability was great, her activity many-sided, her kindnesses and charities innumerable as the sands of the sea.
Antoinette Pierson Granger, who was lately appointed to fill Senator Raines's place on the Canandaigua School Board, writes of Mrs. Miller:
"To many she will remain the one perfect woman known in a lifetime--her beautiful face radiant with the '... that thinketh no evil,' a love that permeated every thought and word and deed, that made her perfectly-ordered home a heaven of comfort and peace, her friendship an inspiration and her memory a benediction for the years to come.
"Phillips Brooks wrote: 'Holiness is an infinite compassion for others; greatness is to take the common things of life and walk truly among them: happiness is a great love and much serving. Heaven does not make holiness, but holiness makes heaven.' Such was the life of Mrs. Miller, reformer indeed."
But, after all has been said, it is impossible to depict the charm of personality, something as indefinable as the fragrance of a flower, which drew all hearts to her. She recalled Dante's descriptions of Beatrice in the Vita Nuova. There was something about her truly angelic. To the present writer--one of the hundreds who loved her-- it always seemed as if virtue went forth from her, and that a glimpse of her was like the sight of Monadnock from a flat country, or a gleam of the shining city in the distance to Bunyan's Pilgrim.
The funeral at Lochland was beautiful and impressive, with a profusion of flowers. Telegrams of condolence poured in from all parts of the country. A hymn was sung by the college girls from the Elizabeth Smith Miller House, and there were addresses by President Langdon C. Stewardson, D.D., of Hobart College, Rev. Anna Garlin Spencer, Prof. Nathaniel Schmidt of Cornell and Rev. Samuel Eastman of Elmira; and! Harriet Beecher Stowe's hymn, "Still, Still With Thee," was sung by Mr. Humphrey, tenor soloist of Rochester, composed and accompanied by Heinrich Jacobsen--a devoted friend of Mrs. Miller.
The remains were taken to Buffalo for cremation.
A. S. B.
Mrs. Miller is survived by a daughter, Miss Anne Fitzhugh Miller of Geneva, a son, Gerrit Smith Miller of Peterboro, three grandsons, two great-grandsons and a great-granddaughter.
Source: Library of Congress, Rare Book and
Special Collection Division, NAWSA Miller Scrapbook Collection.