Ten Notable Women of Plainfield
Margaret Bourke-White (c. 1904-1971)
During her years at Plainfield High School (Class of 1921) she was known as Peggy White, but as a photo-journalist she became known to the world as Margaret Bourke-White. She was noted for her coverage of World War II, particularly the invasion of Russia, the liberation of Italy and the German concentration camps. She was the first female war correspondent to be allowed to work in combat zones and was the first woman photographer to receive U.S. Armed Forces accreditation. Henry Luce hired her first at Fortune magazine and then gave her the cover of the inaugural issue of Life magazine in 1936. She pioneered the photographic essay; her series on the rural South during the Depression, mining in South Africa, Korean guerrilla warfare, American industry, and her portraits of world leaders are especially celebrated. She died in Connecticut in 1971.
Ann (Baumgartner) Carl (1918-2008)
Born in 1918, Ann Baumgartner spent her early childhood in Plainfield, attending the Evergreen School and Miss Hartridge’s School for Girls. Although she later left Plainfield and ultimately went on to military success as a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), she credited her experience at Miss Ransome’s School of Dance for helping her acquire the coordination that would be so useful in her flying. She was the only woman to test-fly experimental planes during World War II and the first American woman ever to fly a jet. She was the author of two books and many newspaper columns and magazine articles on scientific and environmental topics and died on March 20, 2008.
Lillian (Ford) Feickert (1877-1945)
Lillian (Ford) Feickert moved to Plainfield as a married woman at the age of twenty-five and a few years later moved to North Plainfield in 1908. As enrollment chairman of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association she had great success in increasing the membership of that society and then later served as its president from 1912 to 1920. Among her extensive work in policy and politics was an unsuccessful run for a senate seat in 1928 on a pro-Prohibition platform. She died in 1945.
Hazel Fields (1898-1986)
Hazel Fields was born in New York City in 1898 and died in Plainfield in 1986. Over the years of her life she was a teacher, a hospital dietician, a corset saleswoman, a housekeeper, and a friend to many. As a member of the Women’s Achievement Club she worked to bring prominent African Americans to Plainfield to speak of their accomplishments, but one of her greatest contributions to Plainfield was her participation in the New Jersey Historical Commission’s Multi-Ethnic Oral History Project. A transcription of the interview given by her in 1980 is available online here (external link). It presents an invaluable window into the Plainfield that she knew, from her years in the PHS class of 1919 to the time she met Matthew Henson, explorer of the North Pole.
Lillian Gilbreth (1878-1972)
Best known to most people as the mother written about in Cheaper by the Dozen and its sequel, Belles on their Toes, Lillian Gilbreth is also known as the First Lady of Engineering. Her work with husband, Frank Gilbreth, and after his death, dealt with time management, motion study, and efficiency. She earned many degrees and honors. During the few years that the Gilbreths lived on Ravine Road, in Plainfield, son, Frank, Jr., co-author of the two popular titles, was born and daughter, Mary Elizabeth, died.
Dorothy (Krog) Harper, Lt. Col. (1907-1983)
A graduate of Plainfield High School (class of 1926) and Muhlenberg Hospital School of Nursing, Dorothy Krog Harper was the first nurse from Plainfield to enter the armed forces just before the start of World War II. She began as a volunteer in the Nurse Corps and then was called to duty in 1941. Before she retired from the Army Nurse Corps in 1961 she had served in Africa, Italy, France, the Philippines, and Iran, was made the chief of nursing services at the U.S. Army Hospital, and was awarded a Bronze Star.
Eliza Elvira Kenyon (1835-1915)
Born in 1835, Eliza Elvira Kenyon arrived in Plainfield in 1866. Her influence on the intellectual life of Plainfield was considerable over the years until her death in 1915. She was the principal of the respected Plainfield Seminary from about 1870 until her retirement in 1906 and the founder, in 1888, and a two term president of the Monday Afternoon Club, an organization for women with an interest in literary study which continued until its cessation in 2007. She also served as the first president of the Women’s Auxiliary of Muhlenberg Hospital. Her obituary in the Plainfield Courier-News stated that Miss Kenyon “stood for everything that is sound and good in education, and she will be remembered with admiration and love.”
Clemence Sophia (Harned) Lozier, M.D. (1813-1888)
Clemence Sophia (Harned) Lozier was born in Plainfield in 1813. Orphaned at an early age, she was educated at the Plainfield Academy until she left to marry and moved to New York City. There she became the second woman in the state to obtain a medical degree. Because of the difficulties she’d faced in her own medical education she went on to open the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women in 1863, and, amongst others, educated the first African American woman doctor in New York. In addition to her work in education and medicine she was the editor of the Moral Reform Gazette and worked prominently in the areas of women’s suffrage, temperance, and abolition of slavery. She died in 1888.
Ann (Harned) Manning (c. 1793-1878)
The older sister of Clemence Harned (above) has become a woman of mystery because of the early time of her birth and the timeframe in which she made accomplishments in what was then a typically male field. Sources today believe that Ann Harned was born in Plainfield in about 1793. She married William Henry Manning, from another Plainfield family, in about 1811. It is under his name that patents for agricultural equipment are filed but later sources credit Ann (Harned) Manning for these inventions. She is believed to have been the Ann Manning who died in New York City in 1878, at the age of 85.
Jessie D. Munger (1866-1957)
It was estimated that at the time of her death at age 91 in 1957, Jessie Munger had helped to financially support over one thousand institutions and organizations. Named a “true humanitarian” by the Plainfield Courier-News, she donated a dormitory to her alma mater, Wellesley College, and supported Margaret Bourke-White through her college education. She was a YWCA and a Muhlenberg Hospital board member and organized a Red Cross workroom in Plainfield during World War II, among her many contributions to the Plainfield community.