Portsmouth artist and philanthropist Sarah Eddy was the heart of the Bristol Ferry suffrage group.  Three generations of her family were actively supporting the cause of the vote for women.

Francis Jackson – Boston Public Library, 1850

When he died in 1861, Sarah’s maternal grandfather, Francis Jackson of Boston, left Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone $5,000 to use as they sought fit “to secure the passage of laws, granting women, whether married or unmarried, the right to vote, to hold office, to hold, manage, and devise property, and all other civil rights enjoyed by men..”   Jackson was very active in the abolition movement and counted William Lloyd Garrison as a good friend.

Eliza Eddy

Francis Jackson’s daughter, Eliza carried on this family interest in suffrage and Sarah was her daughter.  Like her father, when Eliza died in 1882, she left money to both Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony.  In her will she said “I request said Susan & Lucy to use said fund thus given to further what is called, the Woman’s Rights cause.”  After other deductions from her estate were made, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone received about $57,000.  Susan is quoted in a newspaper article :  “..I am going to make a long-promised visit at Bristol Ferry, with Mrs. Sarah Eddy, daughter of the woman who left me $24,000 for suffrage work, and which I used mostly in getting up the history of woman suffrage.” (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 8/11/1901).

Sketch of James Eddy by Sarah Eddy

Sarah’s father, James Eddy, also gave generously to the social causes of his time.  Eddy’s fortune was self made.  Eddy was born in Providence and learned the trade of an engraver.  He traveled throughout Europe and made high quality copies of European works he loved.  He became a collector of fine art and his home in Providence was filled with masterpieces.  Sarah’s interest in art might have come from being surrounded by an art gallery at home.  One newspaper account stated that Eddy might have been worth three million dollars.  (Boston Globe 7/17/1887).

Eddy gave generously to the anti-slavery movement, temperance reform and the improvement of women’s status in society.  Eddy came from a family of ministers, but his own views on religion are hard to follow.  He advocated for the Free Religious Society and built the Bell Street Chapel in Providence by his residence.  He split with the society and often the ministers invited to speak at the Bell Street Chapel found themselves speaking to him alone.  I could not find Sarah Eddy listed as part of any formal church in Portsmouth and that might have been her father’s influence.

Sarah Eddy’s philanthropy and advocacy for causes had strong roots in her family heritage.  From grandfather Francis Jackson, mother Eliza and father James, Sarah had strong examples to follow as a supporter of Woman’s Suffrage.  They also provided her with connections to national leaders in the movement like Susan B. Anthony.  Like her family members, Sarah was in the background – supporting, encouraging and enabling those who led the fight.