Salem’s Susanna Ingersoll and Caroline Emmerton celebrated for their support of the city’s people
SALEM — Strength is more than might. Lasting strength, the kind with results, is a genius mix of will, persistence and knowhow — all fueled by an enduring passion. And Salem has known formidable strength.
The upcoming presentation, ‘Strong Women of The Gables,’ features two of Salem’s most notable entrepreneurs — Susanna Ingersoll and Caroline Emmerton. Both women were closely associated with the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, now known as the House of the Seven Gables. Both women worked on behalf of the city and her people. And both strong women found ways to make life better for many. The results of their efforts resonate to this day.
To learn more about these enterprising women, those interested are invited to Zoom into Robin Woodman’s thought-provoking presentation on Wednesday, August 26, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Members may attend free of charge; the fee for the general public is $10.
Woodman works at Harvard University for an ongoing archaeological expedition in Turkey. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees at The House of the Seven Gables and cofounder and president of the Salem Historical Society. When she was younger, she says, she attended cooking and dance classes offered through The Gables’ Settlement Program. “When I came back to Salem, I reconnected to The Gables as a way to give back,” says Woodman, not unlike the philanthropists featured in her presentation.
“Susanna Ingersoll was a keen real estate maven at a time when few business opportunities were available to women,” says Woodman. Ingersoll was the only woman who was born and who died in the house. She became owner of the mansion following the deaths of her father and mother, respectively. “During the War of 1812, she was alone in the house as British ships patrolled the harbor right outside her door,” says Woodman. “I find that fascinating.”
Some Salem residents fled inland. Ingersoll assisted in their relocations. She bought and sold their properties, often financing their mortgages herself. “She became land rich,” says Woodman, ultimately handling 60 properties. In fact, Susanna Ingersoll was one of the richest women in America in the 1840s.
Caroline Emmerton’s story is similar, says Woodman. Both were born into rich families, became philanthropists, chose to remain single and retain control over their own money. “They lived a century apart, but they have much in common.”
Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, as many in Salem know, Emmerton bought the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion and employed a noted architect to work with her to develop a plan to restore the mansion, rename it The House of the Seven Gables and then open it for public tours that would support a settlement mission. The settlement programming continues to this day.
About The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association and its mission
Vision: To preserve, share and continue the American story.
Mission: To be a welcoming, thriving historic site and community resource that engages people of all backgrounds in our inclusive American story. For more information visit www.7gables.org.
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This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop