Hannah Simpson Spencer

Spencer, Hannah Simpson plaque

Hannah Simpson Spencer (born in 1838) graduated from Alfred University in 1864 and was recently honored by the Kanisteo Valley chapter of the DAR with a “Women in American History Award.” The University Archives recently received the laser-carved wooden plaque presented at the award ceremony to Hannah’s family. It will join Hannah’s diary already found in the archive collection. Hannah used her diary as both record keeper and confidante, regaling it with daily minutiae and heartfelt emotions alike. It has been transcribed and can be accessed online. Hannah’s writing is an entertaining window into the life of a young college woman finding her way. After first teaching in public schools, she entered Alfred University at age twenty-three. Her obituary gives insight into Hannah’s life after college as she joined other AU alumnae in forging a path into disciplines generally regarded as suitable only for men. “During her college course she broke in health and as the result of an extended course in sanatorium treatment, she became interested in the study of medicine. After a two year medical course and special courses at the eye and ear infirmary in New York City, lectures in surgery at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, she was entitled to a license for the practice of medicine.” As was typical of women of her time, she married and raised a family of six children. “After her children were out of arms she opened a small sanatorium at her home [in Jasper, NY]. She was successful in the use of electricity, baths, rest and carefully regulated habits of living, which are more commonly practiced by the regular medical profession than they were at that time. Her health, however, never allowed her to develop a large practice and after a few years she was obliged to give up this line of work entirely. She was always interested in forward moral and religious movements. She was from girlhood an ardent abolitionist. For twenty-eight years she was the head of the Woman’s Missionary society of the Canisteo River Baptist Association and for over twenty years she was the president of the Jasper Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. When nearly seventy she organized a scout troop in Jasper and it was a success for quite a time.” Hannah Simpson Spencer died in 1929.

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