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Papers from Our Past: Women’s History Month Highlights Artist and Congresswoman, Caroline O’Day

Caroline O’Day letter 1

MyRye.com is pleased to be working with the Rye Historical Society on Papers from our Past. The Rye Historical Society Archives contains centuries of stories, from everyday life in Rye to significant events in American History.

by Alison Cupp Relyea, Director of Programming and Education for the Rye Historical Society

Rye, New York

Dear Mrs. Jenkins,

I haven’t the information you want just at hand but I think I can get it for you. When I do, I will send it to you immediately. Am so glad if I can be of any service to you.

Cordially yours,
Caroline O’Day

Caroline O’Day letter 2

Seeing Caroline O’Day’s words on paper, despite the simplicity of her message, is a perfect example for Women’s History Month that one woman can hold many identities. Caroline Love Goodwin O’Day was a wife, a mother, and a widow with young children. She was an elected member of the Rye School Board before seeking election to Congress. O’Day served in Congress for four terms, holding leadership roles and advocating for human rights and women’s rights.

Caroline Love Goodwin O'Day
Caroline Love Goodwin O’Day

In Rye, Caroline O’Day’s name appears on the post office now dedicated in her honor and on a plaque at Rye High School commemorating it’s opening in 1931. She has been recognized for her service in our community during her lifetime and beyond. In addition to all of her public accomplishments, Caroline O’Day had another talent. She was an artist.

Primary documents, even simple letters, bring us closer to the people who shape history. O’Day’s signature handwriting balances old-fashioned precision with a modern flair, and before even beginning to decode it, the beauty of her words on paper is compelling. Long before she was elected to serve the Rye community and the nation, Caroline O’Day studied art in Paris and pursued a career in art and writing. The artist in her continued to shine through when she put pen to paper, no matter what public hat she was wearing.

O’Day’s trademark writing, in contrast to much of the traditional cursive in the Knapp House archives from the 1930s, inspired a quick search on the internet. Was our congresswoman known for this skill, in addition to her leadership and advocacy? Yes, in fact in the New School archives, she is studied as an artist first, her letters serving as an example of an art form. Women’s lives do not always evolve in a linear fashion, and reflecting on the contributions of women both familiar and famous during Women’s History Month reveals the many layers of a legacy.

Caroline O’Day New School Archives Twitter

(PHOTO: Twitter post from New School Archives requesting help decoding O’Day’s writing for a lesson.)

To learn more about Caroline O’Day, visit these sites:

Rye Historical Society article

History Cooperative article


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