Laura Spelman Rockefeller

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Laura Spelman Rockefeller
Laura Spelman Rockefeller - Bain Collection.png
Born Laura Celestia Spelman
(1839-09-09)September 9, 1839
Wadsworth, Ohio, U.S.
Died March 12, 1915(1915-03-12) (aged 75)
Pocantico Hills, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Spouse(s) John Davison Rockefeller
(m. 1864—1915; her death)
Relatives See Rockefeller family

Laura Celestia "Cettie" Spelman Rockefeller (September 9, 1839 – March 12, 1915) was an American abolitionist, philanthropist, school teacher, and prominent member of the Rockefeller family. Her husband was Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller. She is the namesake of Spelman College, founded to educate black women in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial.

Life and work[edit]

Laura Celestia Spelman was born in Wadsworth, Ohio to Puritan descendant Harvey Buell Spelman (September 15, 1811 – October 11, 1881) and Lucy Henry (February 28, 1818 – September 7, 1897), Yankees who had moved to Ohio from Massachusetts. Harvey was an abolitionist who was active in the Congregationalist Church, the Underground Railroad, and in politics. The Spelmans eventually moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Spelman had an elder adopted sister, Lucy Maria "Lute" Spelman (c. 1837 – February 6, 1920). In Cleveland, Lute and Spelman met John Davison Rockefeller while attending accounting classes together. He was the eldest son of con artist William Avery "Bill" Rockefeller (1810–1906) and Eliza Davison (1813–1889). They had five children; Elizabeth ("Bessie") (August 23, 1866 – November 14, 1906), Alice (July 14, 1869 – August 20, 1870), Alta (April 12, 1871 – June 21, 1962), Edith (August 31, 1872 – August 25, 1932), and John Jr. (January 29, 1874 – May 11, 1960). She later returned to New England to attend Oread Institute, with plans to become a schoolteacher. After returning to Ohio to teach, she married John in 1864. Following her wedding, Spelman remained active in the church (she joined Rockefeller's congregation, the Northern Baptists) and with her family. Once the family business, Standard Oil, began to take off, she further devoted her time to philanthropy and her children.

Throughout their lives, the Rockefeller family continued to donate ten percent of their income to charity, including substantial donations to Spelman College. Spelman died on March 12, 1915 at age 75 of a heart attack, at the family estate Kykuit in Pocantico Hills, New York.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Rockefeller Archive Center
  • Chernow, Ron. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. Warner Books. (1998). ISBN 0-679-43808-4. online review
  • Harvey Buell Spelman
  • Lucy Henry
  • Stasz, Clarice. The Rockefeller Women: Dynasty of Piety, Privacy, and Service. New York: St. Martins Press. (1995).
  • Segall, Grant. John D. Rockefeller: Anointed with Oil. Oxford University Press, (2001).
  • Obituary 1 - "Lucy Maria Spelman", New York Times, February 6, 1920