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Female Family Genes Carry Into Today

August 27, 2021

Inspiration and history for women entrepreneurs, female business owners, career women

Walking down the old cobblestone Jane Street in New York City’s west village, the air and street below my feet felt eerily familiar. Approaching 82 Jane Street where my youngest son moved a year ago, I pass a bronze plaque indicating his small brick apartment building is where American historical figure Alexander Hamilton died after being brought back from New Jersey after being fatally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr.

By now, we are aware of Alexander Hamilton’s history due to the widely successful Broadway play written and produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda. At the end of his masterful piece and after Alexander dies, his widow Eliza who works passionately after his death to leave her own legacy in starting a private orphanage where she raises thousands of children, she sings a song with the lyrics, You have no control over who lives or dies who tells your story,” resonates in my mind especially as I walk Jane Street’s old, uneven road.

The name Carolyn E. Chamberlain travels with me as I stroll through the charming West Village with its 19-century townhouses looking similar as they did when it was the center of some of history’s most influential social and countercultural movements, including the breakthrough of experimental theater and beat literature, the fight for housing preservation and the national gay liberation movement.

George A. Chamberlain and his seven sons (my grandfather is the one with the mustache in the center – the oldest)

Carolyn, was my great, great aunt, and the only sister of America’s 1946 National Working Father of the Year, George Adelbert Chamberlain, my great grandfather. Hardly mentioned at our family reunions until this year when we received detailed newspaper clippings framed about Great Grandfather Chamberlain’s historic award, I had no clue she existed. I thought the Chamberlain’s were only a family of men, mainly because my grandfather was the oldest of seven sons, five who served bravely in the navy during World War II.

After my 88-year-old Aunt Dona told me about Carolyn today, I started research on her like I did for a suffragist project I worked on in 2020, discovering Carolyn was never married and either started/worked/managed a boarding house for theatrical women in New York City. Born in 1877, Carolyn would have been in her mid-twenties in the boom of the women-only buildings in the early 20th century New York.

Although I couldn’t find any newspaper articles with her name in it, I discovered the amazing business, career, and lifestyle about the early 1990’s single working females in New York City, which was one of the first places to address the challenge of providing appropriate housing for young, working women. An online link at  https://womenatthecenter.nyhistory.org/all-the-single-ladies-women-only-buildings-in-early-20th-century-new-york/ will take you to a fascinating article on the subject and give you a glimpse into the life of enterprising females at the turn of the century, and how one still exists today.

Adam Higginbotham, 82 Jane Street, New York City

My question for you today is could your career-focused, female, family genes be like mine, walking down Jane Street in the West Village, in the early 1900s, possibly residing on cobblestone streets and in boarding houses with other women to start their career? It’s a fascinating way to dream and discover how you arrived where you are now, and why once in a while old historic places may give you goosebumps.


P.S. Women keep your maiden name within your name so history can find you.

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