Emily Parmely Collins

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Emily Parmely Collins, "A woman of the century"

Emily Parmely Collins (after first marriage, Emily Parmely Peltier; pen name, Justitia; August 11, 1814 – April 14, 1909) was an American woman suffragist, women's rights activist, and writer. She was the first woman in the United States to establish a society focused on woman suffrage and women's rights; that was in South Collins, New York, in 1848.

Collins was always abreast —usually in advance- of the world's most progressive thought. She always advocated equal freedom and justice to all. Quite possibly an early bias was given to her mind in that direction, while listening to her father's stories of the Revolutionary War. The efforts of Greece to liberate itself from the Turks during the Greek War of Independence enlisted her sympathy, which expressed itself in a poem, giving evidence of remarkable depth of mind in a twelve year old child. She became an Abolitionist even before the general anti-slavery agitation had manifest.[1] She early had advanced ideas as to the liquor problem; with various public affairs and political questions of many kinds she was always familiar.[2]

But it is to the cause of Woman Suffrage that she gave the best of her intellect and sympathy. She was a pioneer in this movement. She wrote:— "In spirit I early revolted against the irrational and invidious restrictions placed upon me and my sex." The full development of a woman's capacities, she believed to be of supreme importance to the well-being of humanity; and chiefly through the press had always advocated woman's educational, industrial and political rights.[2]

Early life[edit]

Emily Parmely was born in Bristol, New York, August 11, 1814. She was of New England parents, who were early settlers of the "Genesee Country".[1] Her parents were James Parmele (1757, Wallingford, Connecticut - 1842, Bristol County, New York) and Lydia Robbins Donelson (1770-1860), his second wife. James was the second son of Jeremiah and Temperance (Blatchley) Parmely. He was a descendant of John Parmely, who settled in Guilford in 1639. During the Revolutionary War, James enlisted in Captain Mill's company, Colonel Webb's regiment.[3] Being a natural musician, James enlisted as a drummer, and saw service at the time of George Washington's evacuation of New York, and during the march of the army across New Jersey, as well as in the battle of Trenton, and in other skirmishes on the Delaware River, and in winter quarters during Valley Forge. Later, at the Battle of Monmouth, he was prostrated with the heat and was never a robust man afterwards. His skill as a drummer was so great that he was once ordered to select a squad of men, take them outside the camp and train them till they became expert drummers. At another time, he was given a furlough of two or three weeks to return to Connecticut to make drums for the army. He was a skilled artificer and was often called upon to do difficult mechanical work.[4] He was naturally frugal and thrifty, and saved his pay to buy him a farm when his term of service expired.[5]

All that Collins had in the way of reminiscences, her father told her as a child sitting on his knee, for she was the youngest of a large family and was his pet. He was fifty-seven years old when Collins was born. James was twice married. His first wife was Caroline Webster, by whom he had six children, three sons and three daughters, namely: Clarissa, Ezra, Eliab, Fannie, Lucius, and Caroline.[6]

Collins was eighth in descent from John Parmely, who came from Kent county, England, in 1639, and settled in Guilford, Connecticut. He was the fifteenth signer of the covenant. From him are descended all of the Parmely name in the United States, whether the last syllable of the name is -le or -lee or -ly, the last being an innovation.[6]

Collins' mother, James' second wife, was Lydia Robbins Donelson (September 7, 1770, Northampton, Massachusetts – February 12, 1860, New York). They were married in Colrain, Massachusetts, December 4, 1802. She was a descendant of one of the five Robbins brothers who came to Boston in early Colonial days, three of whom settled in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut settled in Guilford, Connecticut. The first four children of James and Lydia were born in Colrain: James, Jr. (1803–1888), Lemuel (1805–1886), Daniel (1808–1873), Lydia Ann (1810–1882). Emily, the youngest, was born in 1814, after the removal of her parents to the Genesee country, in South Bristol, Ontario county, New York.[6]

As a child Emily Parmely was sensitive and shy, preferring to be alone with her pets and books.[7] Early on, she became an industrious reader, especially of history and poetry.[1]



At age 16, Collins became a teacher of district number 11 in Burbee Hollow, Bristol, New York.[8] As an evidence of her success, she received a salary equal to that given to male teachers, which was considered unusual.[7]

Pierre Desnoyers Peltier

In 1832, she removed to Michigan with a brother where taught in a log schoolhouse in the vicinity of Port Huron.[8] On January 8, 1835, she married Charles Peltier, a merchant. They soon went to Detroit to live. Charles served as Post Trader at Fort Gratiot, and afterwards Comptroller and Justice of the peace in Detroit, holding office through several administrations. They had one son, Pierre Desnoyers Peltier, M.D. (1835-1906).[9] Charles died in Detroit.[7]

Her second husband was Simri Collins (d. 1876, Louisiana), whom she married July 4, 1841. Simri was the son of Rev. Naron Coobe Collins, D. D., formerly of Connecticut, later of East Bloomfield, New York.[7] They had one son, Emmett Burke Collins (1842–1872).[7][10]

“…from the earliest dawn of reason I pined for that freedom of thought and action that was then denied to all womankind. I revolted in spirit against the customs of society and the laws of the State that crushed my aspirations and debarred me from the pursuit of almost every object worthy of an intelligent, rational mind.”[11]

In 1848, she returned to Bristol, New York. She attended the Seneca Falls Convention in July. On October 19, she organized the first woman suffrage society in the world: the Woman’s Equal Rights Union (alternately called the Equal Suffrage Society or the Equal Rights Association).[8] In the same year, she sent the first petition to the legislature.[2][12][13][10] In 1858, the family removed to Rochester, New York, remaining until 1869. Here, she was a member of the Unitarian church.[11]

Civil War[edit]

“All through the Anti-slavery struggle, every word of denunciation of the wrongs of the southern slave, was, I felt, equally applicable to the wrongs of my own sex. Every argument for the emancipation of the colored man, was equally one for that of woman; and I was surprised that all Abolitionists did not see the similarity in the condition of the two classes.”[11][14]

Collins was a volunteer nurse in Virginia. Her two sons, one a surgeon, the other a lawyer who had just been admitted to the bar, accompanying her. She wrote:— "I served as a volunteer nurse through the campaign of 1864 at the front in the Shenandoah Valley, with both of my sons, Dr. P. D. Peltier and Captain E. Burke Collins.[7][12]


In 1869, the family removed to Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, where Collins buried her second husband in 1876. Her second son, Captain E. Burke Collins, died in 1872. She was a resident of Louisiana for ten years.[7] With Elizabeth Lisle Saxon, she continued her suffragist work.[8]

In 1879, as a new State constitution was being framed, a paper from Collins, giving her ideas of what a just constitution should be, was read to the delegates and elicited praise from the New Orleans press.[12] [7]


In the same year, having leased her plantation, she removed to Hartford, Connecticut to live with her son, Pierre.[10] In 1885, she organized with Frances Ellen Burr and others the Hartford Equal Rights Club, and was for many years its president, and later its honorary president.[2]

Collins, age 90

She wrote occasional stories, to illustrate some principle, for the Pacific Rural and other journals. Not ambitious to acquire a literary reputation, and shrinking from publicity, she seldom appended her name. For several years, she wrote each week for the Hartford Journal, under the pen-name "Justitia", a column or two in support of human rights, especially the rights of woman. She also urged the same before each legislature of Connecticut. As a solution of the temperance issue, she advocated in the Hartford Examiner the exclusive manufacture and sale of liquor at cost by the government. She also urged a change from the electoral system to that of proportional representation, and industrial cooperation in place of competition. [12]

Personal life[edit]

Collins was a member of the Massachusetts Referendum League and of the Woman's Relief Corps. She spoke year after year before the legislature in support of the petition for woman suffrage, and addressed many audiences on various subjects.[2] She became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Hannah Woodruff Chapter, of Southington, Connecticut in October, 1904.[8] Her national number was 48316, and hers was the one hundredth name on the membership roll of "Real Daughters" in Connecticut.[4]

She died on April 14, 1909, and was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.[10][11] In addition to her son, Pierre, she had three grandchildren, namely, Dr. Frank H. Peltier, of Hartford; Frederick D. Peltier, of New York, and Mrs. Florence Peltier Pope, of Boston; as well as four great-grandchildren, namely, Clinton Peltier Perry Pope, Frank H. and Genevieve, children of Dr. Frank H. Peltier; and Paul D., son of Frederick D. Peltier.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Willard & Livermore 1893, p. 193.
  2. ^ a b c d e Daughters of the American Revolution 1905, p. 429.
  3. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution 1919, p. 149.
  4. ^ a b Daughters of the American Revolution 1905, p. 425.
  5. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution 1905, p. 426.
  6. ^ a b c Daughters of the American Revolution 1905, p. 427.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Daughters of the American Revolution 1905, p. 428.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Suffrage – Bristol". Ontario Country Historical Society. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  9. ^ Herndon 1898, p. 103.
  10. ^ a b c d Stanton & Gordon 1997, p. 415.
  11. ^ a b c d "Emily P. Collins". Rochester Regional Library Council. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d Willard & Livermore 1893, p. 194.
  13. ^ "Emily Parmely Collins". The Times-Picayune (Public domain ed.). New Orleans, Louisiana. 21 June 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 3 January 2019 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  14. ^ "Emily Parmely Collins (1814 – 1909)". Cedar Hill Cemetery Foundation. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  15. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution 1905, p. 430.



External links[edit]