Between Old and New Woman: Flora Stone Mather and the Politics of Gender By Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox

Between Old and New Woman: Flora Stone Mather and the Politics of Gender

By Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox

(This is based on a lecture given at the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women at CWRU, on April 20, 2016) 

Flora Stone Mather, the woman whom the place we are in today is named after, and the subject of my talk, is known as one of the greatest philanthropist in Cleveland history, and certainly one of its greatest woman philanthropist, famous for her work and contribution to religious, educational, and social welfare activities. True to her sense of service, and fortunate enough to enjoy a position of power due to her wealth and family reputation, Flora managed to navigate her way in a masculine world, and to cultivate a new identity for herself, as a woman, as a philanthropist, and as an influential force in Cleveland’s elite.  In my talk today, I would like to examine Flora’s life and work as both exemplar of nineteenth century womanhood and a prototype for a generation of Progressive New Women that will follow her. In her ability to carve a position of power in a changing social world in terms of gender and class, Flora Stone Mather’s life provides us with a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities women faced in this period and are still facing today.

Born in 1852, Flora was the third and youngest child of engineer entrepreneur Amasa Stone and his wife Julia Gleason Stone. The couple moved to Cleveland in 1851, after Amasa already reached fame and fortune as a superintendent of the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroad. Flora herself was born in the family home on Superior Ave., a typical Victorian house in one of the fashionable and respectable neighborhoods in Cleveland. In 1858, the family will move to the more fashionable and luxurious mansion on Euclid Ave. that served as a testament to Amasa Stone’s status as one of Cleveland’s social and financial elites.[1] Cleveland in the period just before and after the Civil War was a city in boom. During this time, its population doubled to forty thousand, attracting not only immigrants and cheap labor force but also the Nation’s top entrepreneurs and capital. The war itself brought economic prosperity to Cleveland, transforming it from a commercial village to a mid-size industrial city and an important regional center for manufacturing and shipping. Euclid Ave., where the Stones resided, became during this time the center of wealth and opulence and the home to some of the richest people in America, receiving the name: “Millionaires’ Row.”

Whereas her parents had to climb their way to prosperity, Flora was born into a life of privilege. She participated in the conventional life expected of women of her milieu: dinners, receptions, teas, charity benefits, and church. As the youngest daughter, with an older brother to serve as the family heir, Flora was not destined to become a social reformer but a society woman, a dutiful daughter, a caring wife and a mother – keeping with the Victorian ideals of True Womanhood. Historian Barbara Welter defined True Womanhood as comprised of four core values: domesticity, piety, submissiveness, and purity. According to Welter, the ideal Victorian woman was supposed to be nurturing and innately domestic in nature, cultivating a life of faith and devotion set apart from the public and masculine world of business and interest.[2] And indeed, Flora seemed fitted to this ideal. “Small in stature and fragile in health, plain and unassuming in her appearance” as one description of her explained, Flora embodied the values of the Victorian lady.[3]

On par with the ideals of True Womanhood, religion was an important part of Flora’s life. Her parents were members of the First Presbyterian Old Stone Church, and the children were involved early on in church life. Centrally located on Public Square, the church had a socially and politically prominent congregation, which served not only as a religious community but also as a social one. The reverend of Old Stone Church, William Henry Goodrich, was a great influence of Flora, and played an important role in shaping her views regarding social betterment and service. Indeed, although the leadership of Protestant churches was male, women were active participants in the church charitable activities, which allowed them to move beyond the world of home and family. [4] Navigating between the notion that saw woman’s rightful place in the home, and the notion of Christian service as expression of one’s piety, Flora managed to form a new version of the True Woman, one that carved new position of power in the public sphere, but without defying feminine virtues. On the contrary, Flora used her religious faith and dedication as the rational for action. Flora’s religious views did not only shape her understanding of her role as woman, but also were behind her philanthropic activities. “I feel so strongly that I am one of God’s stewards,” she attested to her notion of service. “Large means without effort of mine, have been put into my hands; and I must use them as I know my Heavenly Father would have me,” she explained her motivation for her work.[5]  

Religion was important aspect of two of the early causes that Flora took as a young woman. In 1867 she and her sister Clara joined the newly formed Young Ladies Mission Society who did missionary work in the working-class neighborhood just north of the church. As part of the Society’s activities, Flora and her colleagues raised funds for the church mission, sewed garments for the poor and held Sunday festivals. This missionary spirit also pushed Flora to join the Temperance Movement, which was the largest women’s movement in the late nineteenth century.[6] Seeing alcohol as a vice and a threat to the Christian home, the Temperance movement was more than just a Christian missionary group. It also served as the breeding ground for ideas of women’s influence and empowerment, and provided many of its members with the experience of public speaking and activism, albeit marked with conservative tones.[7] Thus, infusing ideals of True Womanhood with more progressive ideas regarding women’s role in public, the movement gave Flora her first foray into public life when she became the vice president and then president of the Young Ladies Temperance League. The League also introduced Flora to the field of charity work, especially with regards to children. In 1882, the League became the Young Ladies Branch of the Woman’s Christian Association, whose purpose was to establish day nurseries for children of working mothers. Flora took much joy in those activities: “I had such a sweet time at the Nursery,” she recalled. “I sat by the fire rocking a cradle and singing to a tired little boy. Then the mothers came for their children and I had a little talk with each one. We want to have them feel that we take an interest in them and their children,” Flora explain her rational for volunteering.[8]

Flora’s experiences with the Woman’s Christian Association and her religious affiliation and dedication to the Old Stone Church continued well beyond her youth. In 1896, when she was 44 and already married to Samuel Mather, another prominent Clevelander who made a fortune in the mining business, Flora founded the Goodrich Settlement House, named after her admired reverend. By the late nineteenth century, settlement houses were a common sight in the urban centers of the U.S. Influenced by Progressive ideas regarding social betterment and helping the poor, the settlement movement sought to eliminate social ills not through material charity, but through education and community work that was supposed not just to take care of the poor, but to solve the reasons for poverty all together. The major purpose of settlement houses was to help to assimilate and ease the transition of immigrants into the labor force by teaching them middle-class American values. In Chicago, for instance, Hull-House, which became the most famous settlement house in America, helped to educate immigrants by providing classes in history, art, and literature. Hull-House also provided social services to reduce the effects of poverty, including a daycare center, homeless shelter, public kitchen, and public baths.[9]

Settlement work offered a radical break from Victorian gentility as settlement workers, often young, single, highly educated women, went to live within immigrant and destitute urban neighborhoods and became part of these communities. It opened new possibilities for women to gain public influence and presence in the public sphere. In addition to education and social welfare, settlement houses became a nexus for political activism, with reformers like Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, and Lillian Wald, becoming involved in advocating social legislation to combat poverty in local, state, and national politics. While many settlement workers still worked within the boundaries of middle-class Victorianism, they represented a new understanding of femininity, one that was associated with the New Woman, a term referring to a generation of women who came of age between 1880 and 1920 and represented in their attitude and appearance a challenge to the ideal True Woman.[10] These women challenged the regulatory norms of gender by demanding public voice, a personal fulfillment through work, education, and political engagement. 

Although the settlement worker became a type of the New Woman, Flora, who was 44 and a mother of four by the time she founded Goodrich House, would hardly fit the image. And indeed, while the work done at Goodrich resembled much of the work done in other settlement houses—it had lectures and class to children and adults, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, public baths, laundry, and several clubs for boys and girl—Flora’s involvement attested more to her Victorian upbringing than to her willingness to break new grounds for women. As a mother of four, Flora did not live in Goodrich House but maintained her residence in the family home at Euclid Ave. Flora also saw Goodrich House as an extension of her religious activities, less as a place that will offer her a chance to gain a political influence in the community. As Flora specified in her own words, the object of Goodrich House was “to provide a center for such activities as are commonly associated with Christian Social Settlement work.”[11]

Flora was instrumental to the financial standing of the institution. She and her husband served on the board of trustees and Flora provided funds both for the settlement land and building, as well as $10,000 as a first installment of an endowment fund. Flora also covered the operating expenses. Yet, Flora’s contributions to Goodrich House were not only financial. She was fully engaged in its activities, and while she perhaps did not intend it to become one, Goodrich House nevertheless became known as a public forum for the discussion of social reform issues and was perhaps the “most liberal settlement in Cleveland.”[12] Flora herself, while not the typical New Woman, used Goodrich House and her activities for it to set the foundations to more rigorous reform efforts and opened up opportunities for women to gain position of power and influence in public.

In 1900, as part of her role at Goodrich House, Flora, who had learned about the conditions of the urban poor, decided to form the Consumers League of Ohio, a local chapter of the National Consumers’ League. The League’s goal was to improve the working conditions of women and children by limiting the hours of work, guaranteeing minimum wage, and the safety and sanitary conditions of factories, mills, and offices.[13] While for Flora, the League was very much a continuation of her church and temperance activities, the organization became a breeding place for more progressive and feminist reforms. League members used their considerable social status and economic power as consumers to apply pressure on employers to improve labor conditions, but these activities, while successful on the whole, also pointed the limitation of women to gain real influence without being able to have a voice in the political system. These pushed League member to become active in the women’s suffrage campaign. Although Flora herself was not involved in the local suffrage movement, the League offered a training ground to many of the local suffragists who will channel their experience into promoting more radical causes such as women’s suffrage. Thus, while she herself still hovered in the realm of respectable True Womanhood, Flora managed to harness her influence and fortune to carve new position of power that in turn helped to redefine notions of gender and women’s social roles. 

Beyond Flora’s own character and natural leaning towards social causes, she occupied a unique position that enabled her to become an influential force in promoting social reform while maintaining her relative independence. A series of tragic events that began with the death of her brother Adelbert in 1865 from drowning, and continued with her father’s suicide in 1883 due to a sense of shame from a railroad tragedy, ill health, and depression, turned Flora into a very wealthy woman as she inherited her father’s fortune.[14] Although both her mother and sister also inherited large sums, Flora became the one who not only inherited large sums of money, but also her father’s charitable responsibilities. Her sister Clara married John Hay in 1874 and moved with him to Washington DC where he had been active in politics and served among his other posts as Assistant Secretary of State. As her sister was occupied with the travels of her husband and her aging mother, Flora had to become, with the assistant of her husband, the head of the family, a role that was unusual for women during that time. While this position naturally gave her more influence than before, Flora still maintained her more submissive role as a woman and as a wife, staying true to the Victorian values of True Womanhood and refusing to take this opportunity to break new grounds. In one letter to her husband in 1883 she confessed, “When I think of the business part of the responsibility that has come on us I simply don’t know what I should have done without you.”[15] Despite the fact that by 1883 Flora already gained experience in philanthropy on her own right, she was still not ready to see herself as an independent person capable to running her father’s business.

Flora’s husband, Samuel Mather, also came from a well-known and wealthy family. His father, Samuel Livingston Mather made his fortune in the iron or mining business and Samuel, his son, also became a successful businessman. He and Flora got married in 1881, and two years later, much thanks to the fortune he received from Flora’s father’s inheritance, Mather found Pickands, Mather & Company to sell coal and iron ore, which became one of the great shippers of iron or from the great lakes region.[16] Their marriage became the beginning of a philanthropic partnership, as Samuel was very supportive of his wife’s various initiatives. In a letter to Flora in 1880 he wrote: “I love your conscientious devotion to duty. I could not love any one over a week that was without this quality and I lover your untiring energy and cheerfulness of spirit.”[17] Flora on her side answered: “What touched me most and made me most glad of you, was that you said we would try together to live naturally, truthfully, humbly striving to improve ourselves and be of some honest use.”[18] The couple had together 4 children, and while it was Flora who took upon herself the duties of the household and child raising, her economic status also enabled her the time and resources to pursuit a life of service beyond her immediate family.

Enjoying her husband’s emotional as well as financial support, together with having her own independent fortune due to her $600,000 inheritance of her father’s estate, Flora maintained a unique position that enabled her to carve more power and independence than other women of her milieu at this period, who were bound to their fathers or husbands. Samuel’s frequent traveling and business dealing provided with Flora with relative independence that enabled her to construct an identity separate from her husband. Although she did not enjoy the freedom that single New Women had, she manage nevertheless to enjoy another kind of freedom that gave her the possibility to break new grounds and to become an influential power in Cleveland’s philanthropic landscape on her own. And thus, while she never abandoned her Victorian uprising and the values of True Womanhood, her unique life circumstances enabled her to broaden the limits and definitions of womanhood, negotiating new realms of activities. 

Amasa Stone’s death, while certainly traumatic to the family, also opened up a new venue for Flora to continue her activism. Indeed, whereas religion was an important driving force in Flora’s development as a philanthropist, education was another. As a True Woman, Flora did not receive higher education, as this was considered to be a radical, and even dangerous occupation for women at the time. Although Amasa Stone and many of his class milieu thought that women should be educated, mostly to enhance their social status, rigorous academic training was not what they had in mind. Indeed, while her brother Adelbert was sent to Yale, Clara and Flora stayed at home, preparing for their life as wives and mothers. However, this is not to say that Amasa Stone did not care for his daughters’ education. In 1866 he founded the Cleveland Academy, to which both Flora and Clara went, and was a private girls’ school which was the equivalent of a high-school college preparatory education.[19] The curriculum was based on biblical texts and current events, and emphasized public speaking as well as writing. Their teacher, Linda Thayer Guilford, who became enormous influence on Flora’s approach to reform, represented better the possibilities that began opening up for women in terms of education in the nineteenth century that will become the hallmark of the New Woman. Guilford, who graduated from Mount Holyoke, one of the most prestigious high education institutions for women, was instrumental in introducing Flora to ideas of social service and moral responsibility for the poor.[20]

While Flora preferred to concentrate on helping the poor and children, education was one of Amasa Stone’s main philanthropic causes. In addition to founding the Cleveland Academy, Stone had an important role in the development of Western Reserve University. In 1880, he gave the institution $500,000 to facilitate the move from Hudson to Cleveland, as well as more funds to build Adelbert College, in the memory of his son. Upon his death, Flora took much of her father commitments to Western Reserve. In 1888, she gave $50,000 endowment and $2500 to the library of Adelbert College. In 1889, she endowed a chair in history.[21]  And in 1907, wanting to commemorate her father, as well as maybe to restore his reputation as a great philanthropist, Flora donated a chapel to Adelbert College in his name.[22] The Amasa Stone Chapel was completed in 1911 and stands at the CRWU campus until this day.

Although higher education was never a passion for Flora, the need to step into her father shoes opened an opportunity for her to promote women’s education, if not for her, then for other women. Shortly after Flora assumed her father’s commitment to Western Reserve University and Adelbert College, the new president of the university, Hiram C. Haydn, which Flora knew from his days as the pastor of the Old Stone Church, announced that women will no longer be admitted to the university. This decision has generated a controversy over the virtues of education for women, and Flora, instead of sitting the debate out, decided to use the controversy and to work for the founding of a new institution – a college for women that will be affiliated with Western Reserve University.

In 1888, a separate college for women began to operate. Its first significant gifts came from Flora’s mother and her brother-in-low, which provided sums that allowed the college to take off. In 1891, Flora donated $75,000 for the first dormitory, named for Linda Guilford, her beloved teacher. The college for women gave Flora a chance to experience college life, something she never done herself. She used to visit the college almost every day, getting to know the students, spending time with them, bringing gifts, or attending lectures.[23] Thus, without completely abandoning her life as a mother of small children and a philanthropist, Flora managed also to get acquainted with the new culture of higher education, a culture that soon many young women will get to share. 

Indeed, while she herself would have never been a New Woman, Flora’s involvement in the college, as well as her insistence that women will receive quality rigorous education, paved the way for women in the next generation to reach significant achievements. Alumna of the college later went into law and service, as well as into business, accomplishing the school spirit, and in some way also Flora’s tradition. One of these graduates was Florence Allen, a jurist and an ardent suffragist who defended women’s municipal suffrage before the Ohio Supreme Court in 1917. She was the first women to be nominated as a chief judge of a federal court, when Roosevelt nominated her to the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1934.[24] While careers such as Allen were certainly unique, and although it will be difficult to draw a direct connection between Allen and her experience at the College for Women, Allen is an example of the type of space and functions that the college provided for women, and the possibilities it opened to them in a period where gender bias was still very much prevalent in higher education. 

If other women lived to their upmost potential thanks to the college, Flora remained bound to her more Victorian uprising. Despite her many activities and increasing philanthropic responsibilities, she maintained a life that was centered around her family, and particularly her children. To Flora, her children were the greatest achievement of her life. She confessed: “My greatest gift to the next century should be my well-trained children.”[25] And indeed, Flora took full responsibility for her motherly duties and the education of her kids. While for the twenty-first century feminist ears, such sentiment, especially from a woman who achieved such status in the public sphere, might sounds contradictory and even a bit defeatist, it is important to understand the world in which Flora operated in and the emotional, psychological, even if not economic challenges, that she had to negotiate. Flora was in no means revolutionary, but very much a product of her time, and in the period she lived, home and motherhood were a source of power, the base from which you go out to the world, not only a secluded prison you needed to escape from. 

And indeed, it is possible to see Flora’s philanthropy as the extension of the domestic sphere, not as a negation of it. Her charitable activities with children and mothers were a way for Flora to enhance her own motherhood. Even her involvement with education causes came out of her experience as a mother. As a mother she sought enriching schools for her children, and when she failed to find ones, she used her social and economic status to found them. One of those schools was Hathaway Brown, the school her daughters went to, in which Flora played a major role in its development. In 1904, she gave $33,000 for the land and building for the new residence of the school. This act propelled the school to request Flora to give her name to the new location and to change it to the “Mather School.”[26] However, since for Flora, philanthropy was not a form of self-interest or a way to advance a business agenda, but an extension of her motherly and feminine duties, she refused to take any credit for her work or contribution. 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the ideas of philanthropy were tied up with the notion of service and civic stewardship. This notion was based on the idea that successful citizens owe a dual obligation of time and money to the community in which they prospered.[27] While this notion was not specifically gendered, as many wealthy men, from John Rockefeller to Andrew Carnegie also embodied this notion of philanthropy, for women, and especially for those who belong to Flora Stone Mather’s generation, success usually did not mean economic or business success, but an idea that was much rooted in notions of Christian missionary, devoutness, and domestic roles. Whereas Flora’s contributions to the development of Cleveland, to its institutions, to the promotion of women’s education, and to women’s and children welfare was on par with many of her male colleagues, if not surpassed them, Flora in her life never broke the boundaries that marked her gender and her understanding of her role as a woman in this men’s world.

Flora was known and acknowledged during her own lifetime, yet it was only after her death that she received the credit for her activities, assuming the role of the New Woman, a role that she never assume when she was alive. Indeed, Flora’s death in 1909, due to complications of breast cancer, did not mark an end to her lasting influence and involvement in philanthropy. Her will listed bequests for all the organizations that she had given support to throughout her life, among them the Children’s Aid Society of Cleveland, Old Stone Church, Lakeside Hospital, the Young Ladies Branch of the Women’s Christian Association, the Goodrich Social Settlement, and of course Western Reserve University and the College for Women and Adelbert college.

In the years after her death, her husband, Samuel Mather and her children continued Flora’s commitment to the Women’s College, honoring her with a dormitory in her name in 1913 and building the Flora Stone Mather Memorial Building in 1914. In 1931, the board of trustees of Western Reserve University renamed the entire college for women as the Flora Stone Mather College.[28]

Although today, the name of Flora Stone Mather is rarely known beyond Cleveland, her legacy is still very much alive today. In 1909, one of the eulogies that appeared on the Cleveland Leader commented that “Mrs. Mather achieved a career of which any man might be proud.”[29] Flora used her social status to promote issues that would later be picked up by reformers and feminists. While she herself never broke beyond the limits of her gender, her activities and philanthropic contributions enabled others to do it. Flora Stone Mather thus provided a model for a woman of her time and status that symbolized the transitional phase of women in the turn of the century America, one that did not represent a complete break with ideas of Victorian femininity, but managed to incorporate both the advances and the limitations of women’s liberation at the time. When we come to assess Flora Stone Mather today, in an age when women are running for president and are the head of multi-billion businesses, we should be reminded of the women, like Flora Stone Mather, who in their actions paved the path for other women to march on. While they were never revolutionary or radical, they too manage to carve a space of influence and power and to make their mark on Cleveland’s history and society.


[1] Gladys Haddad, Flora Stone Mather: Daughter of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue and Ohio’s Western Reserve (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2007), 7-10

[2] Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860”, American Quarterly, 18, 2 (Summer, 1966), 151-174

[3] Marian Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter: Flora Stone Mather and Her Gifts to Cleveland”, 2.

[4] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 4; Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 10-11.

[5] Quoted in Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, xi

[6] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 4-6

[7] For more on the Temperance Movement see: Ian Tyrrell, Woman’s World/Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective 1880-1930, (UNC Press, 2010); Janet Giele, Two Paths for Women’s Equality: Temperance, Suffrage, and the Origins of Modern Feminism (Twayne Publishers, 1995)

[8] Quoted in “A Legacy of Stewardship: Flora Stone Mather”

[9] On the Settlement Movement see: Jane Addams, 20 Years at Hull House; and Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890-1935 (Oxford University Press, 1994)

[10] Martha H. Patterson (ed.), The American New Woman Revisited (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2008); June Schoen, The New Woman: Feminism in Greenwich Village 1910-1920 (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1972); Jean Matthews, The Rise of the New Woman: The Woman’s Movement in America 1875-1930 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003).

[11] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 6

[12] John J. Grabowski, “Social Reform and Philanthropic Order”,

[13] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 8

[14] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 3; Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 69-70

[15] Samuel Mather Family Papers, WRHS, box 9, folder 6

[16] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather ,76-77; “A Legacy of Stewardship: Flora Stone Mather”

[17] Samuel Mather Family Papers, WRHS, box 2, folder 4

[18] Quoted in Haddad, Flora Stone Mather , 61

[19] “A Legacy of Stewardship: Flora Stone Mather”

[20] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 12-13

[21] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 10; Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 73

[22] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 107

[23] Morton, “Her Father’s Daughter”, 10; Haddad, 72-73

[24] “Florence Allen”, The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History,

[25] Samuel Mather Family Papers, WRHS, box 10, folder 8; Haddad, 80-81

[26] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 87

[27] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 114-115

[28] Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 108-109

[29] Quoted in Haddad, Flora Stone Mather, 107

Her Fathers’ Daughter: Flora Stone Mather and Her Gifts to Cleveland by Dr. Marian Morton


The pdf is here

Her Fathers’ Daughter: Flora Stone Mather and Her Gifts to Cleveland

By Dr. Marion Morton

Cleveland’s best-known woman philanthropist took no credit for her generosity: “I feel so strongly that I am one of God’s stewards. Large means without effort of mine, have been put into my hands; and I must use them as I know my Heavenly Father would have me, and as my dear earthly father would have me, were he here.” [1]  So Flora Stone Mather described the inspirations for her giving: her Presbyterian belief in stewardship – serving (and saving) others – and the example of her father, Amasa Stone. But she expanded her role as grateful daughter, moving beyond philanthropy into political reform and institution-building.

Flora Stone, born in 1852, was the third child of Amasa and Julia Gleason Stone.  Her family – parents, brother Adelbert, and sister Clara –  moved to Cleveland from Massachusetts in 1851. Her father, a self-taught engineer, built churches, then bridges and railroads, which made his fortune.  He arrived in Cleveland as superintendent of the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroad, which he had built with two partners. He subsequently directed and built other railroad lines and invested in the city’s burgeoning industries and banks.  Thanks to its railroads and lake shipping, petroleum refineries, and iron and steel mills, Cleveland would become an industrial giant.

In 1858, Stone built an elaborate Italianate mansion on Euclid Avenue, a sign that he had arrived socially and financially.  He became an ardent Republican and an enthusiastic supporter of the Union side of the Civil War.  The war boosted Cleveland’s industries and made Amasa  even richer.  He kept his son Adelbert out of the Union Army, but lost him anyway when the 20-year-old student at Yale drowned on a school expedition in June 1865.

Julia Gleason had worked as a seamstress before her marriage, but her husband’s financial success and social position meant that daughters Flora and Clara were destined for lives of privilege, defined as marriage and family, in keeping with nineteenth-century ideas about woman’s nurturing and innately domestic nature.

Flora seemed fitted by personality and upbringing for this role. “Small in stature and fragile in health,” “plain and unassuming” in her appearance and habits, [2] she was above all, modest, self-effacing, and compassionate.  She dutifully participated in the conventional social life expected of Euclid Avenue women: dinners, receptions, teas, walks and carriage rides, charity benefits, and visits to her affluent, congenial neighbors. Yet she had a lively intelligence and a keen curiosity, honed by her rigorous education and travels abroad. Her intellect and energy made her a leader among her peers even as a young adult:  “’Wait until Flora comes.  She will know just how to go ahead,’” said her friends.[3]  She also had an adventurous spirit, confessing to her fiancé: “I do like to meet new people.”[4]  And meet them she did.

Amasa Stone valued education for his daughters – perhaps to enhance their (and his) social status or perhaps to enhance their intellects. He was a funder and the builder of the Cleveland Academy, a private girls’ school, which opened in 1866 across from the Stones’ Euclid Avenue home. Both Clara and Flora attended. Their demanding college preparatory education relied on both Biblical texts and current events and emphasized speaking in public as well as writing.[5] Headmistress Linda Thayer Guilford also taught her young students that they had a moral responsibility to the less fortunate around them.

And there were plenty of the less fortunate in post-Civil War Cleveland.  Its population had doubled during the war and continued to grow –  92,829 in 1870 and 160,146 in 1880 – , swelled by immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and soon from all over Europe, as well as by native-born men and women from small towns and villages who saw possibilities in this bustling city on Lake Erie.   Often lacking the skills for urban life or earning a living in the city, however, new arrivals often fell upon hard times.  The Cleveland Infirmary (or public poorhouse) sheltered – grudgingly –  absolutely destitute families. Those who had at least a roof over their heads received an ungenerous supply of food and clothing at the backdoor of the Infirmary.  In this almost complete absence of public assistance, private charities, all faith-based, stepped in to help their co-religionists.

Immigrants also turned a small homogeneous town into a prospering city with neighborhoods  differentiated by class, ethnicity, or religion. But in the second half of the nineteenth century, before the widespread use of the streetcar and then the automobile allowed the well-to-do to flee the city, these neighborhoods often adjoined one another, so that the less fortunate were not hidden from their more fortunate neighbors.

The population growth that created visible poverty also created great wealth for some: men like Amasa Stone who arrived in Cleveland at the right time with the right skills.  And like Stone, a handful became the philanthropists who created Cleveland’s enduring cultural, educational, social welfare, and medical institutions, as well as its recreation facilities.  Some of the magnificent gifts of these late nineteenth-century industrialists and bankers still bear their names: Gordon Park, Wade Park Lagoon, Severance Hall, Rockefeller Park, the Mather Pavilion of University Hospitals of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University.

All these big donors were men.  It would have been almost impossible for a nineteenth-century woman to earn this kind of money.  Women acquired wealth by inheriting it or marrying it.

Flora Stone Mather did both. Her marriage in 1881 to Euclid Avenue neighbor Samuel Mather was a love match that brought the couple four children – Samuel Livingstone Mather (born in 1882), Amasa Stone Mather (born in 1884), Constance Mather (born in 1889), and Philip Richard Mather (born in 1894).  The Mathers were a more distinguished family than the Stones, dating their American origins back to the famous Puritan ministers, Increase and Cotton Mather. Samuel’s father, Samuel Livingston Mather, came to Cleveland in 1843 to take charge of the family’s holdings, established by his own grandfather, Samuel Mather Jr., a stockholder in the Connecticut Land Company that settled the region. [6]

Although born into a wealthy family,  Flora’s husband had made his own fortune.  In 1869, he had permanently injured his arm while working in his father’s Michigan ore mines and did not attend Harvard as he had planned.  Instead, Samuel continued to work for his father’s company, Cleveland Iron Mining Company, and then founded Pickands Mather, a rival supplier of iron ore and transportation to the steel industry. He also held directorships in several iron and steel companies and banks. When Samuel died in 1931, he was considered the richest man in Ohio although the Great Depression had diminished his wealth. [7]

Amasa Stone’s death in 1883 left Flora an independently wealthy young woman.  Stone committed suicide, depressed by his own failing health, his son’s death, and the tragic collapse in 1876  of one of his railroad bridges, which killed 92 passengers and ruined Stone’s  reputation. [8] Flora and Clara each inherited $600,000; their husbands, author-diplomat John Hay and Samuel Mather, $100,000, plus whatever money was left over after Stone’s debts and other bequests were paid.   [9]

Flora had enough money during her lifetime to make dozens of gifts to local charities –  from the Visiting Nurse Association and the Humane Society to the YMCA, the Home for Aged Colored People, and Hathaway Brown School.  When she died in 1909 of breast cancer, she left money to a wide range of educational institutions, including Lake Erie College and Tuskegee Institute, various Presbyterian missionary groups, Cleveland Associated Charities, and the Association for the Blind.[10]

Her most compelling interests and her most generous gifts, however, were shaped by her  private religious faith that found public expression in serving those in need.

             The Stones belonged to First Presbyterian (Old Stone) Church, centrally located on Public Square, close to the Stones’ Euclid Avenue home.  The church, founded in 1827, boasted a socially and politically prominent congregation. Like most other wealthy Protestant churches, Old Stone sold or rented pews to its members.  In 1855, when the Stones were members, almost half of its pews cost more than $400 a year; eight cost $1,000.[11]   Obviously, this custom discouraged membership by the less wealthy.

Perhaps to compensate for the high price of its pews, the congregation also established a tradition of stewardship. Its members established the Western Seamen’s Friend Society in 1830, one of the city’s first charities, which built a chapel and organized a Sunday school to promote the physical and spiritual needs of the men who worked on the canal and the lake.

Although the leadership – lay and clerical – of Protestant churches was male, women carried on most of the institutions’ charitable activities. (They also did most of the fund-raising.) These allowed  women a socially sanctioned entrance into the world beyond home and family.  Led by Rebecca Rouse, the women of Old Stone founded the city’s first orphanage, the Cleveland Protestant Orphan Asylum, in 1852.  This is now Beechbrook, a residential treatment center for children.  In 1863, the women established a home for “poor and friendless people” –  later called the “Protestant Home for Friendless Strangers” –  who were so new to town that they were ineligible for the city Infirmary. [12]  Amasa Stone became the first in his family to donate money to this institution, which evolved into Lakeside Hospital and eventually University Hospitals.

             Like other Protestant churches, Old Stone experienced waves of religious revivalism in the last decades of the nineteenth century that gained the institution new members and new enthusiasm.  In 1866, for example, its pastor, Rev. William H. Goodrich, led a “powerful revival” with “marked indications of the presence of the Spirit” in the Young People’s Meeting.[13] Flora, then an impressionable 14, may well have felt that Spirit. [14]

             In 1867, Flora and Clara joined the newly formed Young Ladies Mission Society. The young women did their missionary work in the working-class neighborhood just to the north of the church where they sewed garments and raised funds for the mission church that became North Presbyterian, originally at E. 41st St. and Superior Ave. [15]

This missionary spirit also infused the temperance movement of the 1870s. Temperance was probably the most popular reform of the nineteenth century as American cities grew rapidly.  Too much alcohol in a country village was one thing;  too much in a congested urban neighborhood was another – obviously more harmful to persons and property.  Drinking was also associated with immigrants, especially Irish and Germans, not always welcomed by native-born Clevelanders. And to enthusiastic Protestants, conversion to temperance was the first step to finding salvation and true religion, a belief reinforced by the opposition to temperance by some Catholics.

Temperance had particular appeal to women since male abuse of alcohol harmed women and children. In spring 1874, “praying bands” of Cleveland women descended upon local saloons, pleading with saloon keepers and customers to forswear alcohol. Weeks later, the national Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was formed in Cleveland; in the last decades of the nineteenth century, it became the largest woman’s organization in the country.

The local branch of the WCTU founded several institutions intended to save men, women, and children from the evils of alcohol. [16] Two have survived: Rainey Institute and Friendly Inn, both neighborhood centers in inner-city Cleveland.

             Temperance provided Flora with her first foray into public life as vice president (1874-1876), then president (1877-1881) of the Young Ladies Temperance League (YLTL).  The young women were more decorous than the “praying bands,” although equally pious.  As president, Flora led their formal meetings, held in various Protestant churches, which began with prayers and featured hymns, and Bible readings.  Their group’s stated goal: to stand “against the use of intoxicating liquors [and] to aid in creating an enlightened Christian public sentiment” on the subject. All members took the pledge of total abstinence.[17]

Like the WCTU, the young women believed that the salvation of the soul was closely connected to the salvation of the body, and like their elders, they established institutions for less fortunate women.  The first, in 1875, was a lodging house “for friendless young women dependent upon their own exertions for support,” which provided “a refuge from temptation” while jobs and permanent housing were sought.   “Nearly all” the young women were “either directly or indirectly, sufferers through the crime of intemperance.”[18]  The home sheltered only Protestants and only “the better class of young women … seamstresses, housekeepers, clerks, nurses …”  Flora drew up the house rules, which included attending Protestant religious services. [19]

More inclusive and of more lasting importance were the league’s institutions for children. The YLTL briefly took responsibility for a “charity kindergarten for “twenty-one little waifs.”   Out of this project in 1880 grew a day nursery. Flora had visited such a nursery in New York City and encouraged the group to start “a similar enterprise” in Cleveland. [20] Here Flora developed personal connections with poor children and their mothers: “”[I] had such a sweet time at the Nursery…. I sat by the fire rocking a cradle and singing to a tired little boy.  Then the mothers came for their children and I had a little talk with each one.’”[21]  The nursery took all children, regardless of their religious background.

In 1882, the Young Ladies Temperance League became the Young Ladies Branch of the Woman’s Christian Association, whose sole purpose was to establish day nurseries for the children of working mothers. Flora served as the group’s first president.  She enlisted the financial support of her former Euclid Avenue neighbor, John D. Rockefeller. [22]  In 1888, she herself donated the site of the nursery she named “Bethlehem” to connect it “with the childhood of Christ.” [23] This was one of several day nurseries that the group eventually maintained; the others, however, were named for their benefactors like the Hanna and Wade families.  A Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter painted this charming portrait of the Perkins day nursery:  “cool, clean, airy rooms filled with bright-faced, happy children” who received meals and medical attention as well as lessons in good behavior; mothers paid five cents a day or whatever they could afford. [24]

             In 1894, Flora’s organization became the Cleveland Day Nursery and Kindergarten Association, which operated day nurseries and kindergartens all over the city and trained teachers for public kindergartens.  As the Cleveland public school system established its own kindergartens, the association gradually closed theirs but continued to operate day nurseries until it was absorbed into the Center for Families and Children in 1969. Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development is descended from the association.

Although initially inspired by her pious desire to serve the less fortunate, Flora’s next project moved her in the direction of changing the society in which they lived. In 1897 Flora founded and funded Goodrich House, the social settlement at E. 6th and St. Clair Avenue, around the corner from Old Stone and named for her former pastor.  Its “object,” Flora wrote, “shall be to provide a center for such activities as are commonly associated with Christian Social Settlement work.” [25] Although a separate institution, the settlement grew out of  Old Stone’s clubs and classes for neighborhood children.  The first president of the settlement’s board of trustees was the current pastor of Old Stone, Hiram C. Hayden. The settlement’s first director, Starr Cadwallader, was a graduate of Union Theological Seminary.

Settlement houses often had denominational connections.  Cleveland’s first settlement, Hiram House, was an offshoot of Hiram College, a Disciples of Christ institution, and was directed by George Bellamy, an ordained minister.  The Council Educational Alliance, which evolved into the Jewish Community Center, was initiated in 1899 by the  National Council of Jewish Women;  Merrick House, in 1919 in the Tremont neighborhood, by the Catholic Christ Child Society.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer in June 1897 waxed ecstatic about Goodrich House, the gift of “Cleveland’s most distinguished woman philanthropist, Mrs. Samuel Mather.”  The activities within the “handsome three-story building of brick with stone trimmings and imposing entrances” were “infused with the Christian spirit although no effort is made to prejudice its members in religious matters.” [26]

Settlements sought to solve the pressing problems of urban poverty and social dislocation by easing the transition of immigrants into urban life, expanding upon the faith-based activities spawned by churches and the temperance movement with secular lectures, services, and classes for adults as well as for children.  Goodrich House, for example, had a gymnasium, a bowling alley, public baths and a laundry, classes in choral singing, several clubs for boys ( the Garfield and Franklin clubs) and for girls (the Sunshine, Rosebud, and Little Women clubs). [27]

Settlement residents were usually single, middle-class, educated men and women who lived in the settlement in return for leading classes or other activities with its working class neighbors.     Goodrich House’s early residents included future Cleveland mayor and U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and reformer-author Frederic C. Howe.  Howe later recalled: “Residents … had good food and comfortable rooms; they enjoyed a certain distinction because of their good works.” [28]

Settlements launched the careers of many Progressive reformers because what the residents learned first-hand about the difficult lives of the poor often encouraged them to challenge the political and economic status quo. Goodrich House became “perhaps [the] most liberal settlement” in Cleveland, providing a “public forum for the discussion of social reforms.” [29]  In this context, Howe, like Baker, went into reform politics, as did Cadwaller.

By then married with four small children, Flora did not become a resident of Goodrich but was fully engaged in its activities from its beginnings to the end of her life.  Its organizational meetings were held at her Euclid Avenue home. She wrote to well-known reformer Jacob Riis for suggestions for a director.   He couldn’t help her out, but when Goodrich House opened in April 1897, she invited Riis to its opening; he regretfully declined. [30] She served on the settlement’s House Committee that oversaw its residents and on its executive committee. She provided also for the settlement’s upkeep.  Staff had to insist on sticking to a budget so that she would not simply pay all the bills herself.[31] Samuel served on the board of trustees.

As the downtown neighborhood commercialized, Flora participated in the discussion to sell the elaborate building in 1907 and to move farther east to E. 31st St. Flora’s settlement, now located at E. 55th St. and St. Clair, has been renamed Goodrich-Gannett Neighborhood Center after Alice P. Gannett, the settlement’s director from 1917 to 1947.  It provides a wide range of programs and services for children and adults as it did when Flora first founded it.

Responding to what she too had learned about the urban poor at Goodrich, as well as in her earlier temperance work, in April 1900, Flora urged the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce to “try to improve the conditions of labor.”  “Mrs. Samuel Mather Will Co-operate Very Substantially,” exclaimed the Cleveland Plain Dealer on its front page, when Flora promised to pay the salary of someone to take charge of investigating “working people’s conditions and surroundings in stores, shops, and factories.” [32] Within weeks, however, she decided instead to form at Goodrich House the Consumers League of Ohio (CLO), a local chapter of the National Consumers League.  Flora served on the local league’s executive committee from its founding until 1907 when she was made an honorary vice-president.

The league’s goal was to improve the working conditions of women and children: to limit the hours of work, to guarantee a minimum wage, and to ensure that factories, mills, and offices were safe and sanitary.  In 1900, more than a third of Cleveland’s female work force  (10,600 women) were factory operatives; they worked in all industries but were concentrated in textiles, cigar factories, and laundries. A study in 1908 provided shocking details: women and girls in laundries got paid less than $5 a week; work in candy factories was dangerous and filthy (for both workers and consumers); in garment factories, men did the skilled work and got paid twice what women did.[33]

Although it had no connections with organized religion, the CLO’s concern for women and children had been Flora’s since her days as a temperance activist.  In 1905, league president Marie Jenney Howe maintained that the local CLO grew out of Flora’s “friendship” with Florence Kelley, the founder and first general secretary of the national organization.  [34] Flora may have met Kelley when she was a resident at Chicago’s famous settlement, Hull House, from 1891 to 1899, just as Flora was making her plans for Goodrich House.  Kelley, a Socialist, was also an outspoken activist and reformer.  The CLO moved Flora even more decisively from philanthropy into reform politics.

League members used their considerable social status and economic power as middle-class consumers to apply pressure on employers to improve conditions in their shops and factories.  For example, in 1901, Flora, with CLO president Belle Sherwin, asked retail store owners to close at noon on Saturday to give their workers an extra half-day off. [35] The league also tried to educate the public about wages and working conditions in factories and shops. Employers who met league standards got the league’s “white label”; shoppers were urged to boycott those who did not. Sherwin reported much progress in 1905: “improvement in lunch and toilet rooms for employees, better sanitation in factories, shorter hours for clerks and, best of all, a cultivation of a ‘shopping conscience.’” [36]

Department stores like William Taylor & Co. advertised that many of their goods carried the “white label” – meaning “clean, sanitary surroundings [for workers], the absence of child labor, the proper treatment of employees, the absence of sweat shop conditions.” [37]  But CLO members soon realized that voluntary cooperation of employers with the league “did not prove universally successful … [ and] recognized the need for establishing legal standards.” [38] This realization took women like Sherwin and Howe into politics and the suffrage movement.

Flora died before the local suffrage movement was well underway, but in 1905, she ventured again into reform politics when she joined the local committee to work with the National Child Labor Committee.  The goal of the committee, established in 1904 and headed by Owen Lovejoy, was to end child labor. Husband Samuel also sat on the committee, as did Rabbi Moses Gries and Belle Sherwin. [39]

In 1908, Flora, with Marie Jenney Howe, Mrs. Newton D. Baker, and others, organized the Municipal School League.  Its purpose was “to increase the interest of women in the school ballot … [and] to maintain the representation of women on the school board.” [40]  (Ohio women had gotten right to vote for and serve on local school boards in 1894.)

If Flora’s faith-inspired work for women and children led her into  the secular world of political reform,  her gifts that followed in Amasa Stone’s footsteps helped to transform the small college for men that he had sponsored into a thriving university that educated both men and women.

             His gift of $500,000 had persuaded Western Reserve College, founded in 1826, to move in 1882 from the village of Hudson to the city of Cleveland on properties along Euclid Avenue in what is now University Circle.  These had been donated by other benefactors for both Western Reserve and Case School of Applied Science, which had been founded in 1881 by Leonard Case Jr., in downtown Cleveland. Stone stipulated that Western Reserve College was to be re-named Adelbert to honor his son and that $150,000 of this gift was to be spent on buildings and that the remainder would be a permanent endowment.  It is not clear whether the gift was inspired by Stone’s grief at the loss of his only son or by his rivalry with Case or whether it was intended to atone for the tragic train wreck.  In any case, the gift came with strings attached: not only the college’s new name but a new board of trustees chosen by Stone himself.  After his death in 1883, the college received another $100,000. [41]

Generous as Amasa had been, Flora and husband Samuel would ultimately donate to the college more than ten times as much. [42]  When her father died, she and Samuel had been married only two years and still lived in Amasa’s home.  (The couple built their summer home Shoreby in Bratenahl in 1890 and a grander home on Euclid Avenue in 1910, completed after Flora’s death.)  Flora must have been deeply grieved at her father’s death and the contempt which many Clevelanders had for him – despite his wealth and social standing.  Her gifts to the college  – like his – may have been a way of clearing his name and restoring his reputation.

Her first gifts were to Adelbert College: an endowment in 1888 of $50,000 and $2,500 to the library fund, to which Samuel also contributed. In 1889, she endowed a chair in history. The Cleveland Plain Dealer haled the “MUNICIFENT GIFT,” but Flora, always modest, “treated the subject lightly and impatiently said the sum was so small she didn’t care to speak of it.” [43]

The endowed chair was named for Haydn, then both the college president and Flora’s pastor at Old Stone.  Almost all private colleges had financial and other connections to religious denominations, and it was common for college presidents to be clergymen.

Haydn ended coeducation at the college.  Women had been admitted, beginning in the 1870s.  Although their numbers were small, most were excellent students, and they had a champion in then-college president Carroll Cutler, whose daughter Susan was valedictorian of her class. But the women also enemies among the faculty and trustees, who blamed the college’s low enrollment on its female students and feared that the college would become “over-feminized” if it continued to admit women.  Cutler resigned, weary of the battle over coeducation. Haydn assumed the presidency in November 1887 and terminated the admission of women shortly afterwards. This decision generated bitter controversy over the virtues of educating women. During his inaugural address, four women, graduating seniors, walked out of Haydn’s presidential inauguration in protest, leaving the college for good and receiving their college degrees elsewhere. Haydn responded by establishing a separate College for Women under the aegis of Western Reserve College in 1888.  [44]

The new College for Women thus got off to a rocky start. Its faculty was drawn from Adelbert College, and for three years, they taught the young women for free in a farmhouse at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Adelbert Road.  There was originally no dormitory, no proper chapel, and an ill-equipped gymnasium in a barn.[45]

The first significant gifts to the new College for Women came from Flora’s mother ($5,000) and her brother-in-law, John Hay ($3,000).  The first academic building was the gift of Anna M. Harkness, who also donated Harkness Chapel to honor the memory of her daughter Florence.  Flora donated $75,000 for the first dormitory, named for Linda Thayer Guilford, and in 1891, she gave another $75,000, most of which was to go into an endowment for the college.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer called this “ A Princely Gift. ”[46]  In 1901, she donated, (not very) anonymously, the funds for Haydn Hall, a classroom building.  She also gave small gifts “from books to …  boating permits [,] … making it possible for the young women of the college to enjoy healthful exercise by rowing on the pond in Wade Park.” [47] She and Samuel in 1898 gave $12,000 to the university library. [48]

Adelbert Stone had gone to Yale, but higher education did not figue into Amasa Stone’s plans for his daughters. They might have attended Mount Holyoke College, for example, where Guilford had gone, or to nearby Oberlin College.  Instead, Clara married John Hay when she was 24.  Flora devoted the decade between her high school graduation and marriage to her temperance and day nursery work.

             The College for Women gave Flora her long-delayed chance to go to college. Even though she was a wife and the mother of four young children, with a demanding social and civic life, she visited the college almost every day, getting to know the students and bringing gifts or visiting lecturers.  She invited the graduating class to her home every spring. [49] And sometimes as a guest, sometimes as a hostess, she, and often Samuel, attended formal parties, dances, and receptions at the college.  She also served on its Advisory Committee.

In 1907, she and Clara donated a chapel to Adelbert College, a memorial to their father’s memory and a commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the college’s move to Cleveland that he had engineered. Amasa Stone Chapel was completed in 1911, two years after Flora’s death.

On January 21, 1909, students from both the College for Women and Adelbert College lined Euclid Avenue to pay tribute to Flora as her funeral procession passed the campus on its way to Lakeview Cemetery. Although during her lifetime, she did not permit the name change, in 1931, the College for Women became Flora Stone Mather College, acknowledging her gifts of time, energy, and money. (She had also rejected the suggestion that Hathaway Brown School, another beneficiary of her generosity, be named after her.[50])

Amasa Stone had built a high school for his daughters, the Cleveland Academy, and a college named after his son Adelbert.  Flora (and Samuel) not only gave generously to Adelbert College but helped to assure the survival of the controversial young college for women.  Adelbert and Flora Stone Mather Colleges, perhaps the only coordinate colleges in the country named after siblings, were consolidated in 1971, along with Cleveland College. The three were renamed Western Reserve College in 1973 after the merger with Case Institute of Technology that produced Case Western Reserve University. [51]  Flora’s name lives on in the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women at the university, which provides services and advocacy for women students and faculty.

After her death, Samuel – who himself had missed out on college –  continued her tradition of giving to the university.  He and his children gave the Flora Stone Mather Memorial Building in 1914, and in 1930, a $500,000 addition to the building. [52]  Samuel also donated $400,000 to the university in 1923 and made gifts to various programs within the university. [53]

             Like her father, Flora donated to Lakeside Hospital, originally the Protestant Home for Friendless Strangers, during her life and at her death. [54]  Samuel was also a major benefactor of the hospital, instrumental in its move to University Circle and serving as president and chairman of its board of trustees from 1899 to 1931. Mather Pavilion honors his memory. [55]

             Other women have also given generously to Cleveland.  Among them are Frances Payne Bolton and Elizabeth Severance Allen Prentiss.  Like Flora, both women inherited and married money, and both became important public figures.

Prentiss (1865-1944) was the daughter of Louis H. Severance.  Her first husband, Dr. Dudley P. Allen, was on the faculty of the Western Reserve University Medical School; he died in 1915.  She married industrialist Francis F. Prentiss in 1917.  She donated the Allen Memorial Medical Library to Case Western Reserve University, made significant gifts to the Cleveland Museum of Art, and established the Elizabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation to promote medical research.  In 1928, she also became the first woman to receive the Chamber of Commerce distinguished service medal. [56]

Bolton (1885-1977) was the daughter of banker-industrialist Charles W. Payne.  Volunteer work with the Visiting Nurse Association in New York City inspired her interest in professional nursing, and she funded a school of nursing at Western Reserve University in 1923. This was named the Frances P. Bolton School of Nursing in 1935.  In 1939, she finished the unexpired term in the U.S. House of Representatives of her late husband Chester Castle Bolton and held that office until 1968.  [57]

             Yet Flora stands out because of the breadth and depth of her commitment to the city and its people.  She would be thrilled that her husband was named Cleveland’s “first citizen” for his role as founder and funder of its Community Chest, the forerunner of United Appeal, as well as for his leadership of many other organizations.[58] She would likely be embarrassed that in 2010, she and Samuel were named the second most influential people in the city’s history: their generous partnership has sustained Goodrich House, Western Reserve University, University Hospitals, and countless other significant institutions. [59]

Always the modest daughter, she properly acknowledged her debts to her heavenly and earthly fathers. Nevertheless, Flora became her own woman, creating a new path and new opportunities for herself and others.


[1]  Quoted in Gladys Haddad, Flora Stone Mather: Daughter of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue and Ohio’s Western Reserve (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2007), xi. I am deeply indebted to this sensitive portrait of Flora’s private life as daughter, wife, and mother. I have focused instead on her public life. I also want to apologize for referring to Flora Stone Mather by her first name, which I would never do if she were present.  However, since her name changes from Flora Stone to Flora Stone Mather after her marriage in 1881, it seems easier – if somewhat disrespectful – to use “Flora” throughout this essay.

[2]  Haddad, xi, 70.

[3]  Quoted in Haddad, 10.

[4]  Quoted in Haddad, 54.

[5]  Haddad, 20.

[6]  Haddad, vii, viii, 38-39.

[7]  David V. Van Tassel and John G. Grabowski, Dictionary of Cleveland Biography (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1996), 309-10.

[8]  C.H. Cramer, Case Western Reserve: A History of the University, 1826-1976  (Boston: Little, Brown & Company),  81-86.

[9]  Haddad, 70-71.

[10]  Haddad, 108-9.

[11] Michael J. McTighe, A Measure of Success: Protestants and Public Culture in Antebellum Cleveland (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 29.

[12]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 17, 1863: 3.

[13]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 28, 1866:3.

[14] In October, 1879,  the great evangelists Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey preached to  full houses at Old Stone; one sermon was on “The Work and Power of the Holy Spirit.”Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 9, 1879: 1; Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 1879: 4.

[15]  Jeannette Tuve, Old Stone Church: In the Heart of the City Since 1820 (Virginia Beach, Virginia: Donning Company, 1994), 42.

[16]  Marian J. Morton, “Temperance, Benevolence, and the City: The Cleveland Non-Partisan Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1900,” Ohio History, Vol. 91, Annual 1982: 58-73.

[17] Cleveland Day Nursery Association, Mss. 3667, container l, folder 14, Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), Cleveland, Ohio.  The temperance movement’s ultimate success, the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, was opposed by Samuel Mather when in 1928, he joined the board of the Association against the Prohibition Amendment:  Kathryn L. Makley,  Samuel Mather: First Citizen of Cleveland (Minneapolis: Kathryn L. Makley,  2013), 46

[18]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 27, 1876: 4.

[19]  Mss. 3677, container 1, folder 14, WRHS.

[20]   Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 18, 1880: 4.

[21]  Quoted in Haddad, 31.

[22]  Haddad, 75.

[23]  Mss. 3667, container 1, folder 3, WRHS.

[24]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 30, 1887:  2.

[25]  Goodrich House, Mss.3505, container 5, folder 2, WRHS.

[26]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 7, 1897: 6.

[27]  Mather Family Papers, Mss. 3735, container 8, folder 7, WRHS.

[28]  Frederic C. Howe, Confessions of a Reformer (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1988), 76.

[29]  John G. Grabowski, “Social Reform and Philanthropic Order in Cleveland, 1896-1920,”

[30]  Mather Family Papers, Mss. 3735, container 8, folder 7, WRHS.

[31]  Mss. 3735, container 8, folder l, WRHS.

[32]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 18, 1900: 1.

[33] Marian J. Morton, Women in Cleveland: An Illustrated History (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana State University Press, 1995), 42-43.

[34]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 7, 1905: 33.

[35]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 11, 1901: 10.

[36]   Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 19, 1905: 6.

[37]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 27, 1904: 12.

[38]  Consumers League of Ohio, Mss 4933, container 1, folder 26, WRHS.

[39]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 13, 1905: 4.

[40]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 5, 1908: 7.

[41]  C.H. Cramer, Case Western Reserve: A History of the University, 1826-1976  (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1976), 78-86.

[42]  Cramer, 85.

[43]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 3, 1889: 8.

[44]  Cramer, 89-98.

[45]  Cramer, 100-102.

[46]  Cramer, 102; Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 23, 1891:8.

[47]  Cramer, 103.

[48]  Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 20, 1898: 5.

[49]   Cramer, 103.

[50]  Haddad, 87.

[51]  Richard E. Baznik, Beyond the Fence: A Social History of Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland: Case Western Reserve University, 2014), 355.

[52]  Haddad, 109.

[53]  Baznik, 86.

[54]  Haddad, 79-80, 108.

[55]  David D. Van Tassel and John J. Grabowski, The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 1034.

[56]  Van Tassel and Grabowski,  Dictionary of Cleveland Biography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 359.

[57]  Van Tassel and Grabowski, Dictionary, 53.

[58]  Makley, 25.

[59]  Plain Dealer, December 26, 2010: H2.

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