Village People: Henrietta Rodman

Village People: Henrietta Rodman
Henrietta Rodman was known for wearing loose clothing and bobbed hair long before it was fashionable, or acceptable, for women to do so.
Henrietta Rodman was known for wearing loose clothing and bobbed hair long before it was fashionable, or acceptable, for women to do so.

Henrietta Rodman was known for wearing loose clothing and bobbed hair long before it was fashionable, or acceptable, for women to do so.

(This post is part of a series called Village People: A Who’s Who of Greenwich Village, which will explore some of this intern’s favorite Village people and stories.)

Henrietta Rodman was born in Queens, in 1877. In 1904, she graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University. She began her career teaching English and working as a vocational counselor at the Wadleigh High School for Girls which, opening in 1902, was the first public high school for girls in the city. She came into conflict with the New York City Board of Education when she opposed restrictive policies on married female teachers, advocating for their rights to promotion and maternity leave.

She was also a member of the Liberal Club, which had been founded by muckrakers and reform-minded gentlemen in 1908. In 1912, she was the focus of a split in the club, when she began asking uncomfortable questions about why there were no African-American members, and why the mostly-male club had not supported her case against the Board of Education. Her advocacy of free love was also discomforting, especially when she so moved one of her fellow club members with her passionate arguments, that he not only took a mistress, but had her move in with him and his wife. She herself married her friend Herman de Fremery, and lived together with him and his earlier common-law wife at 42 Bank Street. (She also would adopt two children.)

Upon discovering that her supporters within the club constituted far more than a small faction, Rodman moved her new Liberal Club of about 100 to 137 MacDougal Street, in the South Village. Soon, she began letting out her space to the Heterodoxy Club, of which she was also a member, every other Saturday. In 1914, she formed the Feminist Alliance, and made serious plans for an all-female apartment building which would follow the writings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. An architect was hired, and financial backers found, but opposition and the onset of the First World War prevented any success. During the war, she was a member of the executive board of the Woman’s Peace Party, and wrote and gave lectures on pacifism.

By 1923, Rodman had developed a brain tumor. She died in March of that year, after an unsuccessful attempt to surgically remove it, at the age of forty-five.

A source for this post can be found here.

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Tasha
About

Tasha was an intern at GVSHP in the fall of 2014. She did her undergraduate work on the history of gender and sexuality.

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