Henrietta Rodman

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Henrietta Rodman
Born (1877-08-29)August 29, 1877
Astoria, New York, US
Died March 21, 1923(1923-03-21) (aged 45)
Other names Mrs. De Fremery
Occupation Educator
Known for Feminist and labor activism

Henrietta Rodman (August 29, 1877 – March 21, 1923) was an American educator and feminist. She was active on behalf of married women teachers' rights to promotion and maternity leave.

Early life and education[edit]

Henrietta Rodman was born in Astoria, New York, the daughter of Rev. Washington Rodman and Henrietta Blackwell Rodman.[1] Her father was a Protestant Episcopal clergyman in West Farms, Bronx, and founder of St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.[2][3] She was a 1904 graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University.[4]


Rodman taught English and was a vocational counselor at Wadleigh High School for Girls in New York City.[5][6] Opposed to the school board's restrictive policies on married women teachers, she married a psychologist friend, Herman de Fremery (aka Herman Defrem), in February 1913, and announced it to the press, saying, "If the married state affects a woman's work, the authorities can mark her accordingly. If it does not affect her work, and if she is as good a teacher as she was before, she deserves promotion, if it comes to her."[7] She also referred to the Board of Education, in print, as "mother baiters."[8] She was suspended according to New York City Board of Education policy; a well-publicized and lengthy appeal followed, serving Rodman's purpose by keeping the issue in headlines.[9][10]

Rodman was a member of the Liberal Club and of Heterodoxy.[11] She agitated in the Liberal Club for the inclusion of African-American members, and for support of feminist causes; in 1913 she was successful in leading the relocation of the Liberal Club to MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village.[12][13]

In 1914 Rodman formed the Feminist Alliance, uniting several feminist causes to work together. Rodman took special interest in the collective housing, childcare, and communal kitchens, following the writings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman.[14] She made serious plans for an apartment building to demonstrate those feminist principles,[15] hiring an architect and rounding up financial backers, but stiff opposition and the onset of war scuttled any chance of success.[16][17]

During World War I, she was a member of the executive board of the Woman's Peace Party, and wrote and lectured on pacifism.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Playwright Floyd Dell said that Rodman "had an extraordinary gift for stirring things up. Incredibly naïve, preposterously reckless, believing wistfully in beauty and goodness, a Candide in petticoats and sandals."[19] Her Bohemian public persona was considered eccentric at best: she wore sack-like dresses and sandals long before they were in fashion; her hair was bobbed; she smoked cigarettes. She threw crowded dinner parties in her top-floor apartment; Mary Austin recalled attending one such dinner, and meeting James Weldon Johnson there.[20] Margaret Sanger also remembered attending a tea hosted by Henrietta Rodman, whom she called "Feminist of Feminists", in Rodman's Greenwich Village apartment.[21]

During her marriage to Herman de Fremery, the couple lived with Herman's earlier common-law wife, in an apartment on Bank Street.[22]

Rodman adopted two children and was known as "Mrs. Rodman" in her personal life. She died after unsuccessful surgery for a brain tumor in March 1923, at age 45.[23]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Adickes, Sandra (2000). To Be Young was Very Heaven: Women in New York before the First World War. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 74. ISBN 0312223358. 
  2. ^ Jones, Charles Henry (1886). Genealogy of the Rodman Family, 1620–1886. Allen, Lane & Scott. p. 116. 
  3. ^ "History". SBH Health System. 2014. 
  4. ^ Rosenberg, Rosalind (2013). Changing the Subject: How the Women of Columbia Shaped the Way we Think About Sex and Politics. Columbia University Press. p. 116. ISBN 0231501145. 
  5. ^ Rodman, Henrietta. "Self-Analysis by High School Girls", in Proceedings of the Second National Conference on Vocational Guidance, October 23–26, 1912. Volume 2, p. 101.
  6. ^ Emma Goldman's essay "The Social Importance of the Modern School" includes an anecdote about Rodman teaching literature, and getting in trouble for discussing George Eliot's personal life.
  7. ^ "Aided Mrs. Edgell, Married Herself: Supposed Miss Rodman, Wadleigh High School Teacher, Admits She is Mrs. Fremery". The New York Times. 19 March 1913. 
  8. ^ "Try Miss Rodman For School Satire: Teacher Who Called Education Board 'Mother Baiters' Defends Right of Free Speech". The New York Times. 23 December 1914. 
  9. ^ Carter, Patricia. "Henrietta Rodman and the Fight to Further Women's Economic Autonomy", in Tanya Fitzgerald and Elizabeth M. Smyth, eds., Women Educators, Leaders, and Activists: Educational Lives and Networks, 1900-1960. 2014: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 1-137-30351-4.
  10. ^ Carter, Patricia Anne (2002). Everybody's Paid but the Teacher: The Teaching Profession and the Women's Movement. Teachers College Press. pp. 118–122. ISBN 0807742066. 
  11. ^ Churchill, Allen (1959). "The Female Reformed: Henrietta Rodman's Mädchen", in César Graña and Marigay Graña, eds., On Bohemia: The Code of the Self-Exiled. 1990: Transaction Publishers, ISBN 1412829984, pp. 277–279.
  12. ^ Wetzsteon, Ross (2007). Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960. Simon and Schuster. pp. 166–168. ISBN 1416589511. 
  13. ^ Coser, Lewis A. (1997). Men of Ideas. Simon and Schuster. p. 116. ISBN 068483328X. 
  14. ^ MacAdam, George (25 January 1915). "Feminist Apartment House to Solve Baby Problem: Miss Henrietta Rodman, Whose Fight for the Teacher-Mother Aroused Widespread Interest, Does a Little Prophesying about the Mother of the Future". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Fay-Smith, Laura (25 April 1915). "The Feminist Paradise Palace: Miss Henrietta Rodman's Suggestion of an Apartment House for the Advanced Mother Rouses the Ire of an Unbeliever". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ Sochen, June (Summer 1970). "Henrietta Rodman and the Feminist Alliance, 1914-1917". Journal of Popular Culture. 4 (1): 57–65. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1970.0401_57.x. 
  17. ^ Hayden, Dolores (1982). The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities. MIT Press. pp. 197–201. ISBN 0262580551. 
  18. ^ Rodman, Henrietta (1916). "Should Mother Raise Boy as Soldier? No! as Citizen Says Henrietta Rodman". Journal of the Switchmen's Union of North America. 18: 449–450. 
  19. ^ Harris, Luther S. (2003). Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village. JHU Press. pp. 187–188. ISBN 080187341X. 
  20. ^ Austin, Mary (1932). Earth Horizon. Houghton Mifflin. p. 347. 
  21. ^ Sanger, Margaret (2012). The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger. Dover Publications. p. 187. ISBN 048612083X. 
  22. ^ Scott, William B.; Rutkoff, Peter M. (2001). New York Modern: The Arts and the City. JHU Press. p. 73. ISBN 0801867932. 
  23. ^ "Miss Rodman Improved" (PDF). New York Call. 29 January 1923. p. 7. 

External links[edit]