I haven’t been able to find a picture of Sarah Pellet. I wish I had one to show you, because I wonder what she looked like. Newspaper reports sometimes refer to her as “fair” (as in “the fair lecturer”), but that was a convention.
The Daily Alta California said she was “small and neat-looking, and wearing spectacles” and another editor called her “angular.” She was 30 years old when she first came to California. Her passport application of 1858 gives a description that includes height of 5 feet 2 and 3/4 inches, a dark complexion, black hair and eyes, a Grecian nose and a mouth “rather large.”
Sarah Pellet was born in North Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1824. A neighbor of Lucy Stone, she became friends with that women’s rights activist, and like her attended Oberlin College, graduating in 1851. Following her graduation, she returned to Massachusetts and became active in the cause of women’s rights. Later she went on to gain a medical degree. She was certainly an intelligent and determined woman.
Inspired by Lucy Stone’s lecturing tour of the “western states” (what we would call “midwestern”, i.e. Ohio, Indiana and Illinois) in 1853, Sarah decided to go even further west, to California, in 1854-55. A letter to Sarah from Susan B. Anthony in August 1854 encouraged her to take up lecturing to spread the word of women’s rights.
Dear SarahI had long been asking my where is Sarah Pellet & what is she busy about, for busy she must be—What say you Sarah— here is a chance for you, (under the auspices of our State Committee) to make yourself thoroughly at home in the Lecture room— If you ever intend to make Lecturing your business, you surely need just such a discipline—one cannot have a reputation as speaker, until they have won it, & simply giving a few Lectures to small audiences in large places will not win a name to one’s self—
Susan B. Anthony was asking Sarah to campaign around the Northeast, but Sarah decided to go further afield. In the fall of 1854 she boarded a steamship for California, and drew a considerable amount of humorous comment, dressed as she was in “brown linen bloomers.”
Bloomers were practical, especially for a woman who would have to ride a mule across the Isthmus of Panama, but they were considered outlandish and dirisible. Did she continue to wear the bloomers while touring and lecturing throughout California? I wonder.
Next: Sarah Pellet in California