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Biography

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Sarah Brown Ingersoll was born on December 12, 1835 in Cazenovia, New York, the eldest in a family of three girls. She attended Cazenovia Seminary, where she met Halsey Fenimore Cooper, and Troy Female Seminary. Halsey and Sarah married in 1855 and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they worked together at a newspaper called The Advertiser, Halsey as the editor and Sarah as the assistant editor. They had two daughters: Harriet in 1856 and Mollie in 1861. The family fled the Civil War in 1861 and moved to Washington D.C., but returned south to Memphis in 1863. Mollie's death in 1864 cast Sarah into a deep depression and she became gravely ill. Sarah spent two years recuperating in St. Paul, Minnesota, but her health did not drastically improve until Halsey moved the family to San Francisco in 1869.

In San Francisco, Sarah taught a Bible Class at the Calvary Presbyterian Church which became hugely popular, and her class of seven students increased to hundreds within a few years. In 1879 Sarah founded the Jackson Street Kindergarten Association, later to be renamed The Golden Gate Kindergarten Association, and opened the first free kindergarten west of the Rocky Mountains in San Francisco. The family lived happily in San Francisco until 1879 when Halsey lost his job with the Internal Revenue Service. Sarah was heavily involved in many religious, educational, and social justice organizations but did not receive remuneration for any of these projects. The family experienced a serious financial strain and had difficulty covering their mortgage payments. In 1885 a group of the Coopers' friends secretly put together a fund to pay their mortgage in full and were planning to present it to the family as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, the friends' effort was in vain. Halsey could not live with the shame of not being able to provide for his family and tragically committed suicide on December 6, 1885. After a period of intense grieving, Sarah set out to clear Halsey's name. John Morton, Surveyor of the Internal Revenue Service, claimed in interviews that he had offered Halsey another position after removing him from his post as Deputy Surveyor. Sarah wrote and published a scathing denunciation entitled A Refutation, in which she included reprints of correspondence between John Morton and her late husband that effectively disproved John Morton's claims.

Sarah and Harriet continued with their philanthropic pursuits and Harriet quit her teaching job in order to act as her mother's personal secretary and dedicate more of her time to Kindergarten and Women's groups. Sarah was a tireless worker; it was unusual for her to rise much later than 5 o'clock in the morning. In addition to her Bible School and Kindergarten work, Sarah was also involved with Suffrage and Women's rights organizations and served as Treasurer for the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Harriet kept up with her mother's grueling pace for a few years before finally succumbing to exhaustion. Harriet had suffered from mild spells of melancholia throughout her life and these became more acute after the death of her father. Sarah was unwilling to institutionalize her only daughter and instead took it upon herself to care for her as best she could. Sarah was able to thwart Harriet's suicide attempts for a few months but Harriet ultimately succeeded in killing her mother and herself on December 11, 1896, the eve of Sarah's 60th birthday.

CHRONOLOGY

December 12, 1835 Sarah Ingersoll born in Cazenovia, New York
1849 Sarah teaches District summer school in Eagle Village, New York
Begins Bible Class for the community
1850-1853 Sarah attends Cazenovia Seminary
Meets Halsey Fenimore Cooper
1854 Sarah attends Troy Female Seminary of Emma Willard, studies Music and Foreign Language
1855 Works as a governess for the Schley family in Augusta, Georgia
Sarah is permitted to teach scripture to slaves on Sunday afternoons
September 4, 1855 Marries Halsey Fenimore Cooper
1855 Moves to Chatanooga, Tennessee. Works as assistant editor for Halsey F. Cooper atThe Advertiser
1856 Daughter Harriet (Hattie) born
Sister Harriet (Hattie) marries Julius Skilton
1861 Sarah, Halsey, and Hattie flee north to Washington, D.C. Halsey works in Treasury Department in Internal Revenue Office
Daughter Mollie born
1863 Sarah and her family return South to Memphis
Sarah organizes Bible Class for Union Soldiers
Sarah is president ofAssociation for Relief of White Refugees
1864 Daughter Mollie dies
1864-1869 Sarah falls ill, travels around southern United States to find a more suitable climate
1866-1868 Sarah recuperates in St. Paul, Minnesota
1869 Sarah, Halsey, and Hattie move to San Francisco; Sarah's health markedly improves
1873 Halsey F. Cooper given job as Special Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue for district in San Francisco
June-October, 1875 Sarah and Hattie on cross-country trip
1879 Sarah Cooper starts Jackson Street Kindergarten Association
Cooper School founded
Halsey F. Cooper fired from Internal Revenue Service
1881 Heresy charge brought against Sarah Cooper by Deacon Roberts of the Calvary Presbyterian Church
1884 Jackson Street Kindergarten Association becomes Golden Gate Kindergarten Association
August 18, 1885 Sarah's sister Jennie dies
December 6, 1885 Halsey F. Cooper commits suicide
1886 Sarah writesA Refutation- a letter to John Morton, Surveyor of Internal Revenue Service, in defence of her husband
1886-1896 Sarah works extensively with Kindergartens, Women's Organizations, and her Bible Class.
1893 Harriet Cooper suffers from Melancholia and Exhaustion
1893 Sarah gives addresses at World's Columbian Exposition
1895-1896 Harriet Cooper's condition worsens
December 11, 1896 Sarah and Harriet Cooper die