LeRoy Historical Society - page 5

Page 5
In 1993 I wrote about Mary Ma-
cauley who was a telegraph opera-
tor in LeRoy. I had been contacted
by Thomas Jepsen from Chapel Hill,
North Carolina, who was going to
write a book about women who had
served as telegraph operators.
I discovered that Mary started her
career in LeRoy when she was thir-
teen. She later rose to prominence
when she was elected vice president
of the Commercial Telegrapher’s
Union of America. I also discovered
that she was a staunch suffragist and
had worked as secretary to Susan B.
Anthony while she was working as
a press telegrapher for the Post Ex-
press of Rochester.
She was the daughter of John and
Jane McCrory Macaulay and was born
January 27, 1865. She learned teleg-
raphy at the LeRoy New York Central
Railroad Station, under the instruc-
tion of Mrs. Nellie Chadwick in 1878.
Her first appointment was given by
Joseph Drexelius, train dispatcher at
the Rochester headquarters of the
New York Central. She worked the
night shift in Lyons when she was
fourteen. Then she was transferred to
the New York Central Station in Syra-
cuse.
Two years later, she took a position
with a commercial telegraph com-
pany that led to the more difficult
and better paying branch of teleg-
raphy. The commercial telegraphers
worked for the daily newspapers.
During her career she worked for the
Post Express
of Rochester, the
Utica
Observer
, the
Troy Standard
, the
Au-
burn Advertiser
and for two years and
held the prestigious position in the
New York office of the
United Press
.
When she was eighteen, she was
working for Western Union Tele-
graph, which was struck by the
Union of Telegraphers. She was an
officer of the union and she walked
out and remained out. Toward the
end of the strike she accepted a po-
sition as a newspaper telegrapher in
Amsterdam, New York, succeeding
Edward P. White, formerly of LeRoy.
Mary’s brother (whose name I have
not discovered) was also a well-
known newspaper telegrapher and
became the managing editor of the
St. Louis Chronicle
and later went to
NewYork City as a clerk of the Appel-
late Division of the Supreme Court.
Mary was the only woman working
as a newspaper telegrapher in the
United States before World War I.
She was working when news of the
Armistice endingWorldWar I was re-
ceived on November 11, 1918.
Mary became Vice President of the
International Commercial Telegra-
phers Union of America in 1919 and
was the first woman telegrapher to
hold a national elected position. One
of her first efforts was to organize
a defense fund to support strikers
who had been arrested in a strike
in Oklahoma City. Her defense fund
succeeded and all the federal indict-
ments were dropped. She served
as vice-president of the union until
1921 and was known for her quiet di-
plomacy and negotiating skills. She
worked twenty years in Lockport
and retired in 1927 from the
Lockport
Union Sun.
She moved back to LeRoy
and lived at 42 Lake Street. She died
at St. Jerome’s Hospital in 1944 and
left her estate to St. Peter’s Church.
Recently when the Historical Soci-
ety took its trip to Morristown, New
Jersey, I noticed a copy of Jepsen’s
Mary Macaulay
book, “My Sisters Telegraphic” in the
bookstore at Historic Speedwell,
which is where Samuel Morse sent
his first telegraph message in 1844.
The book was published in 2000,
and as I thumbed through the index
in the back was Mary Macauley, and
there were several references to her.
In the acknowledgements he not-
ed the LeRoy Historical Society, al-
though clearly he had provided us
with much more information than
we provided him. But the greatest
find, was that he was able to locate
an image of Mary taken from the col-
lections at the Library of Congress.
With the help of several generous
donors, the LeRoy Historical Society
has been able to purchase a very
significant portrait of Julia Ingham,
twin sister of Emily Ingham, founder
of Ingham University. The portrait
is by Phineas Staunton, Emily Ing-
ham’s husband. Several months ago,
we were contacted by an art dealer
in Florida who told us about the
painting. Unfortunately, the price
was prohibitive. The owner, who
had purchased the painting from a
descendent of Julia Ingham wanted
to make sure that the painting was
returned to LeRoy, and agreed to re-
duce the asking price.
The Historical Society recently
established a fund for designated
donations with money donated by
Peter Nelson, who has generously
supported a variety of projects for
many years. His donation made in
2011 for the restoration of a painting,
was put in this fund, when a grant
was secured for the restoration. This
Ingham Portrait to Return to LeRoy
money became the seed money for
the acquisition of Julia Ingham.
The Robert and Beth Boyce Fund
made another contribution. Other
contributors included Bob and Sue
Jones, Laura Baleno, Pat Navas, Dan
and Bonnie O’Shea, Wilfred Vasile,
Edward Perkins, (who shared a story
that his family had a portrait that
was sold, and unfortunately they
have never been able to trace it and
discover who had purchased it).
Then I received a phone call from
Nancy Chiofolo,who is a descendent
of Julia Ingham. A couple of years
ago, she donated two lovely minia-
ture portraits on ivory of Emily and
Marietta Ingham. It was her wish
that the portrait of Julia Ingham
come back to LeRoy, and her dona-
tion closed the gap and made it pos-
sible to obtain the painting and have
it shipped from Florida. It will be sev-
eral weeks before it can be crated
and shipped to LeRoy.
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