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Recently I was asked to talk about women from Ripley, and with no ‘strings attached’ I decided to look for a few of the lesser-known women that had Ripley ties from long ago. So, using our library resources, including the archives of the Ripley Bee, here is one of the lovely ladies we found.
Mary Gay Humphreys was born in 1843, here in Ripley. Her father, W.S. Humphreys was a teacher early in Ripley’s history, listed as such between 1820-1830, later he was a professor in the 1840 Ripley College with Rev. John Rankin. (he had graduated from Miami U. in 1835)
At some point, probably in the early 1880s, Mary Gay left Ripley and headed out to New York City to became a journalist and author. Starting out, she wrote typically women’s articles on fashion, home decorating and art. Not long after she started, the subject matter became more worldly as she wrote articles for The Century Magazine, Harper’s Bazar, New York Times and New York Evening Sun covering such topics as “Plaster Casts and How to Use Them” and “Trade Unions in Japan”. She also maintained a column titled “Feminine News and Views’ . She traveled extensively in the Orient, served as a war nurse in the Philippines and Balkans. Miss Humphreys wrote of her experiences under the pseudonym “Henry Somerville” and gave lectures on politics and world affairs. She was a member, often an officer, in many organizations such as Workingwoman’s Society–writing about the working and living conditions of women especially in the urban setting.
Mary Gay was a published author of quite a few books, some of which are still in print, including a biography titled Catherine Schuyler: A Woman of the Revolution (yes, we have a recent edition of this book in our collection). FYI, Catherine Schuyler was the wife of Gen. Philip Schuyler and mother-in-law to Alexander Hamilton. We’re guessing she saw and heard a lot during the Revolutionary War, and worked hard to be a good wife, mother and American Patriot. This book was originally published in 1897.
Throughout her life, Mary Gay remained very active in writing and social causes. She was, at the time of her death in 1915, the Financial Secretary of the New York Belgian Relief Commission.
Her name is not well known, and has only a small listing in Ohio Authors and their Books: Biographical data and selective bibliographies for Ohio authors, native and resident, 1796-1950, and yet, she seems a progressive and interesting person that made a difference, starting life here in Ripley, OH. Digging for facts, using print and online resources is fun and addictive, be it for a genealogy search or a topic for a column…we welcome you to the library to explore.