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Out & About: Learn how Progressive Era crusader Jennie Powers brought justice in southern N.H., Vt.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/3/2021 9:19:35 PM
Modified: 3/3/2021 9:19:33 PM

WOODSTOCK — A few years ago, the city of Keene was trying to decide the subjects for 16 murals that were to be painted throughout the city when Jenna Carroll suggested Progressive Era figure Jennie Powers, who crusaded against animal and domestic abuse.

“It was funny because nobody had really heard of her story before,” said Carroll, director of education for Historical Society of Cheshire County, who learned about Powers through the extensive collection of her archives housed at the historical society.

Keene saw the merit in honoring Powers, and she got a mural.

“I think even though she was working in Keene, N.H., if people dig deep enough there was a woman in every community that was doing amazing things at this time.”

Carroll will discuss Powers’ life from 2-3 p.m. Sunday during a virtual presentation hosted by the Woodstock History Center. People can find the Zoom link at woodstockhistorycenter.org/calendar.

Powers was the agent for the Keene Humane Society, deputized by counties to make arrests. Her crusade against animal and child abuse earned her the title “The Woman Who Dares” by the Boston Post newspaper in 1906, which said she had arrested more people than any other woman in the United States.

“Nobody wanted to work with her, never mind get arrested by her,” Carroll said.

Powers, who worked as a humane agent in Keene from 1903 until her death in 1936, took photographs, lengthy notes about every case she investigated and conversations she had. While she started off her tenure by investigating animal abuse — primarily that of working animals such as horses — Powers quickly encountered domestic abuse.

“By the later 19th century it was SPCA and Humane societies that were taking on the first cases of child abuse. Where these agents were finding animal abuse, they were also finding other forms of abuse,” Carroll said. “Jennie was continuing that work. She wasn’t the first to do it.”

Powers was also part of class of other Progressive Era women who saw the work they did in the community as an extension of their work in the home. The thinking was that if they could create stronger communities, it would benefit their families.

“Progressive Era women were really strong-willed and thought it is a woman’s place outside of the home to get more involved in community issues and political issues,” Carroll said. “The more you take care of the community, then you’re taking care of your family better. Your family is growing up in a better community.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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