Friday, September 10, 2010

Jane Griffin–Lady Franklin

Born in London in 1791, Jane Griffin was well-educated for her time. As a young lady, she was strongly attracted to Dr. Peter Mark Roget of Thesaurus fame, but while, she claimed Roget made her swoon, the attraction was apparently not mutual. 

Three years after her friend Eleanor Anne Franklin died, Jane was engaged to her widower, Sir John Franklin. When he was appointed lieutenant governor of Tasmania in 1836, they moved to Australia.

Jane was quite interested in her new surroundings and began exploring, becoming the first European woman to travel overland between Port Phillip and Sydney. Later she was the first European woman to  travel overland from Hobart to Macquarie Harbor.

Interested in education, Jane also sought to improve the lives of female convicts, provoking accusations that she unduly influenced her husband’s decisions although there was no proof of such influence.

She is best remembered for her unceasing efforts to find Sir John when the ship he was on disappeared in the Arctic in 1845. She sponsored seven expeditions in search of him or his records, refusing to believe facts presented to her regarding his death. These expeditions did, however, add to the world’s knowledge of the Arctic. The ballad, Lady Franklin’s Lament, tells the story of her unswerving belief that Sir John was alive.

Meanwhile, she spent much of her time traveling extensively around the world with her husband’s niece who served as her secretary.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Grace and Rachel Martin – Daughters of Liberty

Elizabeth Martin of the Ninety-Six District of South Carolina (now Edgefield County) had seven sons fighting in the American Revolution. Yet, it is two of her daughters-in-law whose names have come down to us through history as heroines of that cause.
Grace Martin was the daughter of Benjamin Waring, one of the early settlers of what has become Columbia, while Rachel Martin was the first cousin of statesman Henry Clay of Kentucky. Grace and Rachel were married to the two eldest sons of Elizabeth Martin, and while their husbands were off fighting the British, the two women stayed with Mrs. Martin.
One day they heard that a courier, guarded by two British officers, was headed north to deliver an important message. He would be passing quite close to the Martin home. Dressing in their husbands’ clothes, the two women took up positions not far from the house, determined to keep the courier from delivering his message.
As the British party passed by, the two leaped upon them, demanding the dispatches and taking the guards completely by surprise. So shaken were the British that they surrendered the message without a fight, and once they had it in their possession, Grace and Rachel took a shortcut home through the fields.
Not long after their arrival back home, there came a knock at the door. The elder Mrs. Martin answered only to find the courier and officers her daughters-in-law had so recently waylaid. The British asked for accommodations for the night and were treated quite cordially by all three women. The men never suspected that the young women attending to their needs were the same “lads” who had thwarted their mission by relieving them of their dispatches.