Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Isabel Florence Hapgood

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Loretta reports:

Not long ago, I posted about the Oread Institute, an early college for women, and promised to write about one of its students.

Isabel Florence Hapgood is one who’s often mentioned in pieces about the Oread Institute. She wasn’t its only famous student, but she’s the one I learned was buried in Worcester. With guidance from William Wallace, Executive Director of the Worcester Historical Museum, my trusty photographer spouse found the grave at the Rural Cemetery, and this photo is the result. It’s a modest marker for a remarkable woman, famous in her day. Because she never married, her body was returned to Worcester, to be buried in the Hapgood family plot in the Rural Cemetery (she's on the left) next to her twin brother, who didn't marry, either.

Isabel Florence Hapgood (1851–1928) attended the Oread Institute from 1863–65, then went on to Miss Porter’s school in Farmington, Connecticut.
She turned out to have a knack for languages—“After graduating, she used her exceptional gift for languages to master in the next ten years most Romance and Germanic languages, and, most importantly, Russian, Polish, and Church Slavonic. She obviously was taken with Russian and…engaged a Russian lady to achieve natural fluency in spoken Russian.”—A Linguistic Bridge to Orthodoxy: Isabel F. Hapgood, by Marina Ledkovsky
In 1885 her first translations from Russian to English appeared. In the years following she translated major works by Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Gorky, Chekhov, and Sonia Kovalesky, among others. She also wrote for the New York Evening Post and the Nation. Her life turns out to be quite exciting: Among other things, she was friends with Leo Tolstoy, invited to visit the Empress Alexandra, and had a narrow escape from Russia when the Revolution began.

I would recommend you read at least pp 5-6 of this presentation, to get a sense of her accomplishments and how highly regarded she was.

The History of the Oread Collegiate Institute is a highly detailed account. Among other things it lists faculty and students throughout the school’s history. Ms. Hapgood’s entry is here. She’s in Wikipedia, of course, and the Encyclopedia Britannica. There's a short bio here at Lost Womyn’s Space, and you can see her autograph here.

Cemetery photograph by Walter M. Henritze III. I have been unable to find the original source for the image below, which appears in numerous places.


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