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The Scot in America
Among the Women


IN the course of the present work we have several times mentioned the name of women who have, for some laudable reason or other, acquired publicity or deserved remembrance. But even with the mention of these, scant justice has been done to the claims of "the lassies" to a share in all that has made the Scottish name honorable in America. It may not therefore be inappropriate to make the ladies the text for one chapter in this book, and in the few names we will mention we are sure it will be seen that the fair sex has not been behind the other in good deeds and kindly ways. It is, of course, difficult to get information regarding women's work, for most of them prefer to do what good they can without attracting publicity, and in the quiet of the domestic circle many matters have been suggested and planned and projected which have done grand work in the world. The Scotch-woman is naturally a housewife, bending her energies to the care of the home in which she is recognized as queen, and planning and contriving day out and day in for the comfort of those who look to her for all the pleasures which are associated with domestic life. If she be blessed with children her whole heart goes out to them, and in the development of their minds, their physical and mental progress, as well as their material welfare, she devotes herself with a degree of self-abnegation which is one of the highest and grandest tributes to the real majesty of her sex. But for having been left a widow, with a young family totally unprovided for, it is questionable if Mrs. Grant of Laggan would ever have aspired to the honors of authorship or emerged from the happy obscurity of her own fireside. That wonderful and irrepressible production of nature and art generally called '`a woman with a mission" has her representatives in and out of Scotland, but as a general rule Scotswomen who have become famous have become so by force of circumstances bringing into action their innate sentiments of patriotism, charity, and love. Outside of the people of the stage and concert platform, and, of course, outside of the woman with the aforesaid mission whose vanity is the cause of all her silliness, we never yet heard of a Scotswoman who started out in life or cut out a career for herself with the idea of becoming famous or of even acquiring undue publicity. The fame which has come to so many of them has been the result of work well (lone, of service to God and humanity faithfully rendered, and of simple, trustful devotion to duty in whatever sphere and circumstances they happened to be placed.

From a historical standpoint, the most famous of all the women of Scotland who have had a home in America was Flora Macdonald, the noblest of all the heroines whose name comes down to us with that of Bonnie Prince Charlie. She was a simple, honest Highland girl, with wonderful strength of mind, fertility of resource. rigid devotion to whatever she deemed to be right; a brave heart, with all a woman's modesty and grace. Judging her by the portraits which have come down to us, she was by no means a beauty; her features were interesting rather than prepossessing, but she had a wonderful pair of eyes that lighted up her countenance, and the vivacity of her conversation, the charm of her smile, and the sprightliness of her slim figure more than compensated for mere beauty of features. She played a difficult part, under peculiar circumstances, and in company with a man whose love for the fair sex often overcame his sense of duty and interfered even with the progress of his life ambition, yet against her personal repute no whisper has yet been raised, and she emerged from the ordeal of her life as simple and honest a Highland lass as she was before she ever risked her liberty and reputation to save the head of the young Chevalier.

Flora Macdonald, the daughter of Macdonald of Milton, in South List, was born there in 1722. Her father, who was what was known as a tacksman—a farmer of means apart from the income of the land he leased—died when Flora was a child, and her mother some years afterward married Macdonald of Armadale, in the Isle of Skye, who, during the rebellion, was on the side of the Government and commanded one of the militia companies raised for King George's service by Sir Alexander Macdonald. At the same time it mist be said that, though arrayed against Prince Charlie, Flora's stepfather not only wished no harm to befall the Prince, but once at least aided very materially in his escape. Flora was in her twenty-fourth year when she entered on her romantic task and the details of her wanderings with the "King o' the Highland Hearts" are too well known to need recapitulation here. The whole episode lasted only a few weeks, but during that time Flora's services won for her a niche among the heroines of Scotland and a place in the hearts of the Highlanders only second to that of the wanderer, for the disclosure of whose identity a fortune was offered without effect.

After the Prince had escaped, Flora was arrested and carried to London a prisoner, but her treatment was of the most lenient description. After receiving attentions that might have turned the head of any young woman less endowed with strong common sense than herself, after being, in fact, one of the pets of a London season, she was permitted to reside under a sort of parole in the house of a private family in the metropolis until after the passing of the act of indemnity in July, 1746, when she was formally set at liberty and returned to her beloved Highlands. In 1750 she married Alexander Macdonald, younger, of Kingsburgh, a family that had much to do with the escape of Prince Charles.

In 1773 Macdonald, like many other Highlanders, hearing of the ease with which large tracts of land were acquired by settlement in the New World, determined to emigrate, and a year later found him and his devoted wife and family settled at Fayetteville, North Carolina. Around that place at that time there were hundreds of Highlanders, many of whom had settled in America after Culloden, and it is said that Gaelic was very generally spoken in six counties, with Fayetteville as a centre. We can imagine with what enthusiasm the Highland chief and his heroic wife were received on their arrival. They afterward resided at Cameron Hill, not far from Fayetteville, and Macdonald was preparing to settle down to his new way of life when the grumblings which presaged the Revolution drove an element of uncertainty into Colonial life. When hostilities opened, Macdonald drew his sword as loyally to support the Government of King George as ever Highland sword was drawn for the Stuarts, and accepted a commission in a detachment raised among the Highlanders of North Carolina in 1775 to form part of the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. This command was made up of veterans, mainly in Canada, and its headquarters were there. Drawn from various settlements, the men had great difficulty in getting to their rallying place on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and the detachment to which -Macdonald belonged, besides the fatigue of the weary miles that separated Canada from Carolina, had to face armed resistance to their progress, and finally were forced to break up into small parties, and reached their destination by various routes. Macdonald saw much active service in Canada, was in Quebec when it was defended against Arnold and when the American leader Montgomery fell, and took part in various minor enterprises.

In 1783, when hostilities were over, Macdonald, who had attained the rank of Captain and could have obtained an extensive grant of land in Nova Scotia, preferred to return to his native land on half pay. On the journey across to Scotland the vessel on which the Macdonalds were was attacked by a French privateer, and in the encounter Flora's natural courage asserted itself. She refused to seek safety below, and remained on deck, animating the seamen and rushing from place to place where a word might do good or a little assistance help matters. In the course of the fray her arm was broken, but she had the consciousness of having aided in winning a victory. After many other adventures the party reached Skye in safety and never afterward left it. Flora died in 1790 and was laid to rest in the burial ground of the Kingsburgh family, at Kilmuir, and in 1796 her husband was laid beside her. They had a family, says Dr. Carruthers, of five sons and two daughters. "The sons all became officers in the army and the daughters officers' wives." None of the family became conspicuous excepting Lieut. Col. John Macdonald. He was born in Skye in 1759 and entered the service of the East India Conzpany, attaining the rank of Captain of Engineers. His scientific attainments were very great, and he was a frequent contributor to the transactions of learned societies, while on military matters lie was an advanced critic, and the many works on that science which he published during his career were judged to be of the highest practical value by those qualified to estimate. In 1800 he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Clan Alpine regiment, a command of Highlanders raised by Col. Alexander Macgregor Murray and enrolled at Stirling in 1797 for service in any part of Europe. Col. Macdonald served with this regiment in several parts of Ireland, and continued its active head until it was disbanded at Stirling, in 1802. In his later years lie pail great attention to the science of telegraphy in its relation to the military and naval services especially, and published in 1816 a Telegraphic Dictionary of some 150,000 words, phrases, and sentences, which was regarded as a model of ingenuity and usefulness. He died at Exeter, full of years and honors, in 1831.

In the whole gallery of notable and noble women of the world no figure stands out in more beautiful relief than that of Isabella Graham of New-York as an example of constant endeavor in doing her Master's work, in the accomplishment of much practical good, and for her own sweet, blameless life. She knew what it was to suffer, she had to face the world as a breadwinner for her family, she felt what it was to be poor, yet she never lost her faith and never was so poor that she had not something to give to those whose necessities were even greater than her own. Much of what she accomplished still remains actively at work in the city which was so long her home and with which her memory is most identified, and, although her name is now almost forgotten by the passing throng, the influence she exerted upon the community is year after year bringing forth fruit.

Mrs. Graham was the daughter of John Marshall, a farmer in Lanarkshire. She was born at Heads, in the Parish of Glassford, in 1740, and soon afterward her parents removed to a farm at Elderslie, near Paisley, where she spent her early years and received her education. Dr. Witherspoon, afterward President of Princeton College, was at that time a minister in Paisley, and under his teaching the maiden so grew in religious knowledge and conviction that she was admitted to the communion table in her seventeenth year, an early age in Scotland at that time. As Scotchwomen often say, her troubles began when she was married. In 1765 she was wedded to Dr. John Graham, a surgeon in Paisley. He was soon afterward appointed Surgeon in the Sixtieth Regiment, and two years later the young wife accompanied him to his post of duty at Quebec. Mrs. Graham was not altogether displeased with Quebec, but her heart yearned for "hame." She did not in particular like the idea of attending a Presbyterian service in a Roman Catholic church. The images, altars, pictures, etc., seemed out of place in a house of worship, but as she grew to take no notice of them she hoped that "the Almighty, who knows the heart, would not be offended at our being there." From Quebec the regiment went to Montreal, thence to Niagara, and in 1774 to the Island of Antigua. There Dr. Graham died of fever, and his widow, with three little daughters and a baby son, was left almost penniless.

She managed to return to Scotland, and, finding her father a widower and poor, she supported herself and little ones by establishing a small school in Paisley. This was so successful that she was soon able to remove to Edinburgh, where she opened a boarding school, and prospered exceedingly. As her means grew she took an active part in charitable work, to which she scrupulously devoted a tenth part of all her earnings. She organized a Penny Bank to encourage the very poor to save, and out of that institution grew the Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick, which is still actively carrying on its blessed work in Auld Reekie. We need not mention Mrs. Graham's career in her native land further than to say that she earned a living for herself and little ones as a teacher, did much good among the poor, and raised up for her household many friends.

Among these were Mrs. Scott, (mother of Scotland's great novelist and poet,) and the sainted Lady Glenorchy, whose story is one of the many refreshing bits of biography of which the lives of Scottish religious women have been so productive. Lady Glenorchy had the warmest admiration for Mrs. Graham, and entered into her charitable and religious schemes with much zeal. She took her daughter, Joanna, to her home for a time, and then sent her to Rotterdam to complete her studies. Mrs. Graham attended this Christian lady during the illness which ended in her death, and was by her will the recipient of a bequest of $200.

In 1789, at the request of Dr. Witherspoon and other friends in New-York, Mrs. Graham, with her bairns, settled in New-York. Soon after she landed she opened a school, and within a month had fifty pupils. Until 1798, when she retired, she ranked among the most successful teachers in the American commercial metropolis. But, deeply interested as she was in the cause of education, she delighted more than all things else in "going about doing good." She wrote her own religious experiences and thoughts and had them printed in tract form from time to time, and these she distributed with her own hands in the houses of the very poor, hoping that her practical sympathy for them in their sorrows and sufferings would cause them to take to their hearts the higher message she brought. A tenth of her income, as in Edinburgh, was still regularly distributed in relieving the distressed, and as her goodness and gentleness and patient tenderness became understood and appreciated, this brave, God-fearing Scotchwoman entered harmlessly, and was even welcomed into places—they could hardly be called homes—where many men would not have dared to penetrate. Her pastor, the Rev. J. M. Mason, was amazed at her courage, and reproached her for her temerity, but she never faltered in carrying on her self-appointed work among the poor. Remembering her own forlorn and helpless condition when her husband died, she was especially interested in cases where the breadwinner of a family had been removed, and by her kindly sympathy softened the blow of many a bitter bereavement.

In her school work Mrs. Graham was very effectively aided by her children, but her main reliance seems to have been on her daughter Joanna. The school, it may be said, from the first was a financial success, the Grahams were soon in fairly comfortable circumstances, and were welcomed into the best and most refined society in New York.

As might be expected in a girl who had enjoyed the care of such a mother as Isabella Graham, and the friendship of a woman like Lady Glenorchy, Joanna was, from her earliest years, animated by a deeply religious spirit. When she settled in New York, in her nineteenth year, her sentiments were as fixed as ever. One gentleman—an Irishman—who was paying her attentions, said that when he married her he would take her where she would never hear the sound of a church bell. That settled his case. Her next wooer was a wealthy merchant, but she declined his proffers for some reason. Then Divie Bethune, at that time a young merchant on Broadway, near Wall Street, without a superabundance of means, laid siege to her heart, and in proposing, according to her story, "adverted to his poverty and talked much of living by faith." She construed this to mean that Divie was not in circumstances to support her, and so refused him. But Divie had a stanch ally in Mrs. Graham, who thought him one of the best men in the world, and so, when the young woman told her mother of the interview and its result, the good old lady simply said: "Joanna, if he has asked you in faith, he'll get you in spite of your teeth." Divie did not take "no" for an answer, and in July, 1795, the two were married.

From that time Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Bethune and her husband were united in every good work—a glorious trio whose highest aim was to do good through the spirit of the Saviour, and until death stepped in and, one after the other, carried them off to a higher sphere, the life story of the three run on the same lines.

Mrs. Bethune's active career in well-doing commenced with her marriage, and here it may be said that a happier union than that of the Bethunes, during the twenty-nine years it lasted, could hardly be imagined. During part of that time old Mrs. Graham was a member of the household, and the warmest affection animated every one in the home. Mrs. Graham and Divie Bethune were hand in hand in all good works, and Divie had a theory that women understood the practical workings of benevolence and Christian endeavor better than men, and so was ever willing to follow the lead of his wife and his mother-in-law.

Divie Bethune was a native of Ross-shire, a Presbyterian, and an honest, conscientious, God-fearing man. He had fairly prospered in business, was not rich by any means, but had established a trade that promised steady and increasing, if not extravagant, returns. He was active in Scotch matters, for he was an enthusiast in all things pertaining to his native land, and in the cause of religion he was noted from his arrival in New York for his earnest and faithful work. He appointed himself a missionary among the poor, and gave away hundreds of Bibles and good books while relieving the pressing necessities of each case of actual poverty with a liberal hand. No wonder that the heart of Isabella Graham warmed to this typical Scottish merchant as soon as she became acquainted with him, and that it was with peculiar satisfaction she witnessed his marriage to her daughter Joanna. While Mrs. Graham lived she and her son-in-law were associated in many Christian enterprises, and Divie Bethune revered her. In her later years, especially, Mrs. Graham mainly made her home "at Divie's," and nowhere was she more warmly welcomed. We hear a good deal of mothers-in-law. They are credited with causing much trouble and any amount of fun, and an incredible number of silly jokes have been concocted at their expense. In this case, Mrs. Graham loved her son-in-law as a mother loves her son, and he looked up to her with truly filial affection. A day or two before her death, in 1814, she penned the following tribute to his worth in a letter to a friend: "According to knowledge, observation, and even investigation, Divie Bethune stands, in my mind, in temper, conduct, and conversation, the nearest to the Gospel standard of any man or woman I ever knew as intimately. Devoted to his God, to his Church, to his family, to all to whom he may have opportunity of doing good, duty is his governing principle."

In 1796 Divie Bethune was one of the managers of the St. Andrew's Society, and had personally to attend to the distribution of its charity along with the other managers, for these officials at that time were the almoners of the organization. Bethune, of course, had to refuse relief from the funds to many worthy applicants whose cases did not come properly within the province of the society, and Mrs. Bethune at once saw the necessity for a general organization which would help the most pressing at least of such cases. Woman-like, her heart went out to the widows with young children, and, besides helping such cases as her means permitted and collecting aid for them among her acquaintances, she set about the formation of a society which would more systematically do the work. She found able co-adjutors in her husband and in her mother, and in the same year the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children was organized, and it exists to this day.

Thus the influence for good of the St. Andrew's Society was shown in a direction which its members never anticipated; but it was destined to hear still further fruit. When the widows' society had been in operation for a few years it was seen that its scope was not broad enough to enable it to assist orphan children; so in i8o6 the Orphan Asylum of New York was organized, mainly by the efforts of Mrs. Graham and her daughter, Mrs. Bethune, and it is still one of the most active charities of this city. Divie Bethune culled the meeting which led to the organization, and while he lived spent much of his Sundays in the asylum and was ever ready to help it. For half a century Mrs. Bethune was active in the work of superintending the asylum, and only retired from her labors when advanced age incapacitated her. It is curious to think how these two societies—the one for widows and children and the other for orphans—really owed their origin to the election of Divie Bethune as a manager of the St. Andrew's Society.

In 1801 Mr. and Mrs. Bethune visited Scotland, and one result was the real beginning of the Sabbath school movement in this country. The first Sabbath school in America of which we have record was founded by Quakers in Philadelphia in 1791. In 1792 Mrs. Graham organized a Sunday school for young women in New-York. While in Scotland Mrs. Bethune saw the importance of such schools, as we now understand them, for religious instruction, and began at once an effort to have the same missionary spirit at work among the children here that she saw in her motherland. Ill health, family cares, and the amount of work already on hand prevented her from making headway with her project, and the war of 1812 put an end to it altogether apparently, but Mrs. Bethune never relaxed in her purposes, and even when the project seemed hopeless continued in correspondence with friends in Scotland so as to keep posted on the varying phases of the Sabbath school movement there. At length, in 1816, by the organization of the Female Sabbath School Union of New-York, the real foundation of the present system in this country was laid, and by her work in this connection Mrs. Bethune fairly earned her title of "Mother of Sabbath Schools in America."

Divie Bethune died in 1824 and his widow survived until 1860, and until the infirmities of years compelled her to stand aside she continued her interest in all good work.

It is impossible in this place to enter into details regarding other spheres of Joanna Bethune's usefulness, of her work in Church matters, in infant schools, in industrial schools, and in practical benevolence of all kinds. She was not a "woman with a mission," but a woman with a dozen missions, and her whole life of ninety years may justly be said to have been spent in doing her Master's work. Busy as she was, her home duties were never neglected, and few men had a happier home than Divie Bethune, and few children had more of a mother's care than did her own beloved little ones.

It is hardly possible to imagine a life more pure, more holy, more devoted to doing good, more self-denying, more full of humble faith, than that of Isabella Graham, and the same may be said of her daughter Joanna. Both women had their share of the trials, vexations, and sorrows of this life, yet they never faltered in their devoted trust or in their implicit faith that all things are ordered for the best. The life of Mrs. Bethune, like that of her mother, showed that sectarian differences are, after all, divisions in name only, and that religion and good works break down the barrier of the issues which have arisen to distract Christianity from the pre-eminence of the real message of the Gospels. Mrs. Graham rejoiced to see that her lifework was certain to be carried on by her daughter, and the daughter in her turn saw her son preaching the Gospel with much acceptance and fruit.

That son, the Rev. Dr. G. W. Bethune of Brooklyn, was born in New York in 1805, and after being educated at Dickinson College and at Princeton, became in 1828 pastor of a Dutch Reformed Church at Rhinebeck, N. Y. His next charge was at Utica, and in 1843 he went to Philadelphia. In 1849 he was called to take charge of a newly organized congregation in Brooklyn, and remained there ten years, when he went to Italy in search of health. He returned after a time, resumed his pastoral labors in Brooklyn, and made a notable public appearance and eloquent oration at a meeting held in New York to advocate the maintenance of the Union on April 20, 1861. Shortly afterward his health again gave way and he returned to Italy, where he died suddenly, in 1862. He was eloquent as a preacher, faithful in the administration of his pastoral work, and won the love of every congregation to which he ministered. His published writings were many, and his prose works were noted for their chaste diction and the clearness and crispness of their style. As a theologian he was not only profound, but had the happy art of stating even the most profound truths in language that a child might understand. But it is as a poet that he will be remembered in connection with literature, and his "Lays of Love and Faith" stamped him as a writer of rich fancy and one possessing true poetic insight and sentiment. In his poetry, too, we find the true patriotism of Isabella Graham and his father and mother reproduced and perpetuated, for it was the hallowed influence of Divie Bethune's fireside that inspired in after years his son to pen that most popular, and to the Scot abroad most clear, of modern Scottish lyrics:

"O! Sing to me the auld Scotch sangs,
I' the braid Scottish tongue,
The sangs my father loved to hear,
The sangs my mither sung
When she sat beside my cradle,
Or croon'd me on her knee;
An' I wadna sleep, she sang sae sweet,
The auld Scotch sangs to me."

A very pronounced type of the woman with a mission, but so earnest in her mission that she had none of the peculiarities which inspire contempt or arouse amusement for that class, was Fanny Wright, after whom, in the early anti-slavery days, so many abolitionist societies were named. She was born at Dundee in 1795, and in early life made a special study of Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and other works on political philosophy. She developed into a close and original thinker on such topics, and her earliest publication was a defense of the doctrines of Epicurus.

From 1818 till 1821 she resided in the United States, mainly engaged in travel and paying particular attention to the social and religious communities then in existence, and to the slavery question in all its bearings. Then she returned to Europe and traveled over the Continent, gathering new ideas and adding to her store of knowledge as she journeyed. In 1825 she determined to turn her accomplishments to some practical purpose, and accordingly returned to America to wrestle with the slave problem. She bought some 2,500 acres of land in Tennessee as a place for the residence of emancipated negroes, so that, dwelling together in a compact colony, they might not only acquire a sense of independence by earning their own livelihood, but be sufficiently under her control that she might readily put into practice several theories she had formed for their advancement. The colony, however, turned out a failure. The time was not ripe then for such an attempt. Though disheartened greatly at the upshot of this well-meant endeavor, she did not abandon the cause of the slave, and by her lectures and speeches did much to foster and strengthen the sentiment against the accursed traffic, which was then becoming, a live issue in public affairs in the Northern States. It is singular that, though retaining her Scotch accent, she had no difficulty in rousing her audiences, the very earnestness of her manner making all else be forgotten while she occupied the platform.

Becoming acquainted with Robert Dale Owen, Miss Wright adopted many of that dreamer's ideas and tried to aid him in his work at the settlement at New-Harrnony, Ind. She edited the "Gazette" there, and worked hard to make the experiment a success, but her nature and that of Owen were not congenial, and she abandoned the enterprise. Crossing the ocean again, she took up her residence in Paris and married a Frenchman named D'Arusmont, but marriage is never a happy state for a woman with a mission, and this union was not a fortunate one. The pair separated, and, making her home once more in the United States, the gifted Scotchwoman entered upon a busy career, writing and lecturing on social and religious topics, and advancing often such extreme and outre views as to subject her to persecution, ridicule, and sometimes opprobrium. She was a voluminous writer, although little that came from her pen now survives. But such books as her "Views on Society and Manners in America" and "Lectures on Free Inquiry" were much read and discussed in their day. She essayed poetry also, but it has passed away into the misty sea where nearly all literary efforts, with the exception of a comparatively few, sooner or later find their way, and even her tragedy of "Altorf," which was produced at the Park Theatre, in New York, in 1817, has long since been forgotten. She died at Cincinnati in 1852. She was a woman whose thoughts were constantly directed away from self to doing good in the world, and, while we may regard her energies and endeavors to have been to a great extent wasted, and her life to that extent a failure, we should not forget her efforts in behalf of the slave, exerted at a time when such efforts were comparatively few, and to believe that she in that respect at least did much good and aided very greatly in the progress of the movement which, once started, could have no other termination than equal rights in free America for all men, black or white.


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