Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lucia Newell Oliviere

Lucia Newell Oliviere, ca. 1920. Photograph
from Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Oliviere was born and named Lucinda Newell in North River, New York, around March 1855. After her father died, she was taken into the home of Rev. Enos Putnam in Johnsburg, an abolitionist who is said to have helped escaped enslaved people on their way to freedom in Canada. She was trained as a teacher at Albany Normal School and went on to teach for twelve years in Peekskill, Elmira, and Chestertown. She married Frank Oliver, and the couple had their first child, Julia, in 1879. Julia went on to be known as Jeanne Robert Foster, a noted poet, model, and journalist. Lucinda and her husband moved to Glens Falls during the 1890s and were living in Schenectady by 1900. Oliviere would continue to live in Schenectady until her death in 1927. After moving to Schenectady, Lucinda changed her name to "Lucia" and the family altered its last name to "Oliviere." In Schenectady, Oliviere became active in the Socialist party and local politics, writing in newspapers such as the Knickerbocker Press and George Lunn's newspaper, The Citizen. She wrote and lectured about a number of topics related to politics and social justice, advocating anti-militarism, socialism, suffrage for women, women's rights, labor rights, education, birth control, and the abolition of child labor and capital punishment.
Election ephemera from Lucia Oliviere Scrapbook. A hand-
written note beneath the card reads: "This card was used on
election day in Schenectady on November 6, 1917 - when
 equal suffrage was won."
Soon after suffrage for women was granted, Oliviere began making appeals to women voters, urging them to support Socialist candidates. In a November 1919 article titled "Women of Schenectady - How Will You Vote?" Oliviere addresses the working-class women of Schenectady, writing "the Democrat and Republican parties having each fought your right to political equality are now persistently seeking to secure your vote in their behalf. They have not changed their ideals - they still believe woman's place is in the home - but they remember that the women of the west turned the scales and elected Woodrow Wilson on the slogan 'he kept us out of war.' . . . You are willing to go out on a strike at much loss to yourself and your family, but you strike against the very conditions which you vote to maintain in November of every year. An ape should have more sense than that."  Throughout her articles, Oliviere addressed the concerns of working women, whether in an article highlighting the story of a female union organizer laid off by General Electric or an article aimed at wealthy families suggesting reforms that might make domestic work more attractive to young women than factory work.

Card promoting Lucia Oliviere, Socialist
Candidate for Supervisor of 8th Ward (1919).
From Lucia Oliviere Scrapbook.
Oliviere commented favorably on the "flapper" phenomenon of the 1920s, observing in a railroad station a young woman in flapper attire, unconcernedly crossing her bared legs while munching on a piece of fruit and reading "A Treatise on Political Economy for Women." Oliviere writes: "the coming woman of which a flapper is the advance guard are determined to have liberty and equality, to wear what they choose, to work at any trade or profession they desire, and the old fogies err if they think this will have any bad effect on public morals . . . the flappers will not forget mother today. They may feel a little sorry for our Victorian ideas." Oliviere also used her poked fun at charity-minded wealthy society ladies, employing a fictional "Mrs. Vanderburger" who offers skim milk to poor women an children as charity while advocating that "rich, creamy milk" be fed to pigs and calves to produce the finest meat for her family.

In addition to her work as a journalist, Oliviere also wrote poetry and fiction, which would occasionally appear printed in the newspaper. Her poem "Steinmetz" was published in the New York Times on January 30, 1923, after Charles' Steinmetz's death on January 26. The Anthology of Modern Poetry included Oliviere's poems "Carillo" and "She Will Go Out and Close the Door." A volume of Oliviere's poetry, titled Old Houses, was edited by Jeanne Robert Foster and published in 1928.

Oliviere was also active in local politics and civic activity. She was active in the fight for women's suffrage, organizing the Schenectady Industrial Suffrage Association and serving as its secretary. Under the Socialist ticket, she ran for the position of Schenectady County clerk in 1918, supervisor of the eighth ward in 1919, and ran twice for state senator, in 1922 and 1926. She was also a member of the Women's International League, the Consumers League, and the Woman's Club of Schenectady.

For those interested in finding out more about Oliviere's life in Schenectady, the Grems-Doolittle Library has a clipping file and photograph file for the surname Oliviere. We also have in our holdings a scrapbook compiled by Oliviere that includes clippings of her articles, poems, and short fiction, family photographs, and election-related ephemera.

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