We are pleased to welcome guest blog contributor Tricia Foley, a member of Preservation Long Island’s Curatorial Committee and author of the 2019 illustrated biography, Mary L. Booth: The Story of an Extraordinary 19th-Century Woman. Ms. Foley’s new book is based on years of gathering letters, books and magazine articles for a Booth archive at the Yaphank Historical Society. Edited by Lauren Brincat, Curator, Preservation Long Island. 

MARY L. BOOTH (1831–1889)

Writer, author, translator, historian, editor, abolitionist, suffragist Mary L. Booth made her mark in the world of 19th-century publishing with the publication of her book, the first History of the City of New York in 1859.

Born in Yaphank in 1831, and educated at Long Island academies, she moved to Brooklyn with her family in 1845 and continued her French studies at the Williamsburg Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies.  She was one of the first female reporters for the New York Times, reporting on the new women doctors and infirmary in the early 1850s and was soon on the cover of the Times herself, noted as secretary of the Women’s Rights Convention in Saratoga in 1855, along with her friend Susan B. Anthony who was treasurer.

Booth went on to write and translate over 40 books, and went to work for the Union cause during the Civil War, receiving a thank you letter from President Lincoln and William Henry Seward for her contributions. She was the liaison with the French statesmen who brought the Statue of Liberty to America and went on to become the founding editor of Harper’s Bazaar in 1867, reigning there until her death in 1889. She continued her work in the women’s rights movement throughout her life and was well-known for her Saturday evening salons, bringing the writers, artists, and statesmen of the day together at her home.

Booth’s untimely death at 57, was reported in The New York Times, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and newspapers all over the country, mourned by all who knew her and her papers and library sold off. Her birthplace has been restored by the Yaphank Historical Society and the Suffolk County Parks Department Historic Services and is open summer Sundays on Main Street in Yaphank and by appointment.