Two Women from Different Childhood Backgrounds;
                                       In Later Life They Were Bookends

    Two women who were born in Mendon in the 1800's grew up in different backgrounds, yet in later
    years, they shared a common bond that would affect the people of their community for many years to
    come. As children, they were from drastically diverse circumstances in terms of wealth and education,
    but as adults, they both had been inspired by beloved family members who influenced their lives in
    meaningful  ways. To honor their memories, they donated gifts that contributed significantly to the
    cultural well-being of the town.

    Susan Lee's childhood was devastating and sad. Her father, Ephraim Lee, was a shoemaker, and her
    mother, Abigail "Nabby" (Benson) Taft Lee, was a widow with a previous child. Nabby died when
    Susan was four months old, and her father died when she was four years old. The orphaned little girl
    was sent to live with her uncle and aunt: Jared and Sally Taft Benson. They lived on a farm in the
    Chestnut Hill section of Mendon. Her half brother, William Putnam Taft, was sent to Worcester.

    Rosa George was from a family of privilege. She grew up in the federal farmhouse at 28 Main Street.
    Her family was well educated and wealthy. She and her sisters graduated from Wellesley College. Her
    father and grandfather had degrees from Brown University, and her brothers were graduates of
    Harvard. One of her sisters taught at MIT, another at Wellesley, and the other was school
    superintendent in Mendon. The Georges were successful educators, businessmen, town officials, and

    It would seem that Susan and Rosa had very little in common.  It was not until later in their lives, that
    there appeared to be common links. Susan married William Huston in 1847 at the age of 23. They
    moved to Providence, and she became a seamstress. Rosa married Arthur R. Taft of Uxbridge in
    1889.  He was a prominent banker and public official. Though they were from different financial and
    educational backgrounds, their common links were that they shared an avid interest in literature, and
    that  Susan, Rosa, and Arthur had family ties to Robert and Sarah Taft of Mendon.    

    William Putnam Taft had been a literary inspiration to his younger half-sister, Susan.  Living in
    Worcester, he did not get to visit with her often, but his visits generally involved the discussion of
    books.  In his later years, in 1872, he was in the process of donating $3,000 for the creation of a library
    for the town of his boyhood home.  However, he died suddenly, and instead, the money was inherited
    by Susan and her two siblings. She used her share to fulfill her brother's dream. She donated $1,000
    for the establishment of a library, with one of the stipulations being that it be named in memory of her
    brother.  The new Taft Public Library opened in 1881. It was located at 3 Main Street at the brick
    building that had been used previously as Seth Hastings' bank, a law office, a private school, a
    residence, and a place to store town documents.

    Arthur R. Taft, besides being a successful banker, businessman, and public official, was a life trustee
    of the Uxbridge Public Library and an avid reader. He died in 1914, just about the same time that the
    congregation of the Evangelical Union Chapel had dwindled to the point where the building was rarely
    used. It coincidently was a time in which the volumes of books at the library had exceeded the confines
    of the limited space provided by the brick building. Taking the opportunity to honor her husband and to
    help out the town, she purchased the building in 1919 and donated it to the people of Mendon. She
    also donated a substantial sum for its renovation and maintenance. Arthur's devotion to literature, like
    that of his cousin William, would be acknowledged and memorialized.

    Susan Lee Huston and Rosa George Taft paid tribute to two beloved members of Mendon's highly
    respected Taft family. A love of reading and a devotion to cherished family members brought about a
    common bond that created and expanded the Taft Public Library. Though from diverse childhood
    experiences, Susan and Rosa shared a unified virtue of philanthropy and created opportunities for
    future generations to share their love of reading.

    Richard Grady
    June 5, 2012

                                                             President Taft Visits Mendon and Hopedale   


                                                                              Lydia Taft

 Early life and Marriage to Josiah Taft

                                                                                           By David Willis, III

    Lydia Chapin was born in Mendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts on 2 February 1712. She was the daughter
    of Seth Chapin, and Bethia Thurston. Seth Chapin was a respected member of the community and a Captain in
    the militia. Young Lydia Chapin grew up in Mendon, in a large family with nine siblings. Lydia's mother had 14
    children. Her father Seth owned much property in what is today Milford, south Hopedale and Posts Lane in
    Mendon. Untimely Death Opened The Door America's History of Women's Suffrage Given the important nature of
    the vote, the landowner and taxpayer status of Josiah's estate, and the fact that young Bazaleel, Caleb's younger
    brother, was just a minor, the townspeople voted to allow Lydia, "the widow Josiah Footnote of Historic Vote The
    complete footnote of local history is as follows: "The October 25 town meeting records simply say that on account
    of Josiah's death a new moderator will be chosen. With the death of Josiah, Lydia is left to care for 16-year-old
    Asahael, 6-year-old Bezaleel and 3- In the fall of 1756, Josiah and Lydia's 18 year old son, Caleb, became ill,
    while studying at Harvard, and died on September 19. Josiah went to Boston and Cambridge to bury Caleb.
    Josiah himself became ill after returning home, and died on September 30, at age 47. It was reported that he left a
    good estate with bonds and a will. This was immediately prior to an important vote on the town's support for the
    war effort in the French and Indian Wars. Josiah's untimely death opened the door for Lydia's step into America's
    history of women's suffrage. Josiah Taft was originally known as Ensign Josiah Taft in the Uxbridge Militia, and
    later as Lieutenant, and then Captain Josiah Taft in the French and Indian War. He presided over the proceedings
    of the New England style open town meeting. It is later reported, that Josiah Taft became the largest taxpayer in
    the town of Uxbridge in 1756. Taft", to vote in this important meeting. Lydia then received Josiah's proxy to vote in
    this important town meeting. Lydia Chapin Taft then became the first recorded legal woman voter in America.
    Lydia Chapin Taft, now simply known as Lydia Taft, voted in an official New England Open Town Meeting, at
    Uxbridge, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1756. This is recorded in the records of the Uxbridge Town Meeting.
    Lydia Taft of Uxbridge became the first woman to ever vote in the nation. The early town records demonstrate at
    least two other occasions when Lydia voted in official Uxbridge Town meetings, both in 1758 and again in 1765.
    This occurred while Massachusetts, was a colony of Great Britain. Lydia Chapin Taft's historic vote and her role in
    the history of women's suffrage is recognized by the Massachusetts legislature since 2004, which named
    Massachusetts Route 146A from Uxbridge to the Rhode Island border in her honor. The record shows that Lydia
    Chapin Taft was America's first legal woman voter. Lydia Taft died I(aged 65) at Uxbridge in 1778, shortly after U.S.
    independence. year-old Cloa. As seems to be her fate, her life and the life of her town are again intertwined. The
    French and Indian war is being waged and towns must vote as to whether to increase the amount they will
    contribute to the cost of the war. The only individuals allowed to vote were freeholders, (free male property
    holders), and Josiah's estate was valued as one of the largest in the town. Out of respect for his large contribution
    to the town, the town fathers allowed Lydia to vote as Josiah's proxy. She cast a vote to increase the town's
    contribution, thereby giving herself the distinction of being the first woman to vote in this country. She is mentioned
    in town records a few times more, once in 1758 to reduce her highway rates and another in 1765 was to change
    her school district." Her vote was in favor of appropriating funds for the regiments engaged in the French and
    Indian War. November 8, 2012 6th Period In 1727 the western part of Mendon became the newly incorporated
    town of Uxbridge. Mendon and Uxbridge were at that time rural communities in central Massachusetts. The
    reference cited also mentions that she married a Taft. In 1731, these communities became part of the new county
    of Worcester County.