Laura Spelman Rockefeller

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Laura Spelman Rockefeller
Laura Spelman Rockefeller - Bain Collection.png
Laura Celestia Spelman

(1839-09-09)September 9, 1839
DiedMarch 12, 1915(1915-03-12) (aged 75)
John Davison Rockefeller
(m. 1864; her death 1915)
RelativesSee Rockefeller family

Laura Celestia "Cettie" Spelman Rockefeller (September 9, 1839 – March 12, 1915)[1] 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.[2]

Early life[edit]

Laura Celestia Spelman was born in Wadsworth, Ohio to Puritan descendant Harvey Buell Spelman (1811–1881) and Lucy Henry (1818–1897), 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. 1837–1920).[3]

Personal life and career[edit]

In Cleveland, Lute and Spelman met John Davison Rockefeller while attending accounting classes together. He was the eldest son of William Avery "Bill" Rockefeller (1810–1906) and Eliza Davison (1813–1889).[4]

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.[5]

Together, they were the parents of five children;

Throughout their lives, the Rockefeller family continued to donate ten percent of their income to charity, including substantial donations to Spelman College. Laura Spelman Rockefeller died on March 12, 1915 at age 75 of a heart attack, at the family estate Kykuit in Pocantico Hills, New York.[1][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "MRS. ROCKEFELLER DIES AT POCANTICO Succumbs to Heart Attack After Taking a Glass of Milk from Her Nurse. MR. ROCKEFELLER IN SOUTH Expected to Arrive Here Today with Son — Oil Man Attributed His Success to Wife" (PDF). The New York Times. March 13, 1915. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  2. ^ Chernow, Ron. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. Warner Books. (1998). ISBN 0-679-43808-4. online review
  3. ^ "LUCY MARIA SPELMAN | Sister-in-Law of John D. Rockefeller Dies at Pocantico Hills" (PDF). The New York Times. February 9, 1920. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  4. ^ Segall, Grant. John D. Rockefeller: Anointed with Oil. Oxford University Press, (2001).
  5. ^ Stasz, Clarice. The Rockefeller Women: Dynasty of Piety, Privacy, and Service. New York: St. Martins Press. (1995).
  6. ^ "J.D. ROCKFELLER JR. DEAD AT AGE OF 86; Philanthropist Who Made Career of Giving Millions Succumbs in Tucson J.D. ROCKEFELLER JR. DEAD AT AGE OF 86" (PDF). The New York Times. May 12, 1960. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  7. ^ "MRS. ROCKEFELLER LEAVES $1,500,000 Will Bequeathes $450,000 to Relatives and Remainder to Seven Institutions. MANY LEGACIES OF JEWELS Husband, Son, and Daughter, as Trustees and Executors, to Apportion Gifts to Charity" (PDF). The New York Times. April 18, 1915. Retrieved 3 July 2018.

Further reading[edit]

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