Florence Irvine Chandler (1879-1962) : Head, Heart and Hands

Seneca Falls, NY (July 2015)

Seneca Falls, NY (July 2015)

This summer, I visited Seneca Falls, NY, with my aunt and cousin, to take in the charm of the historic town and visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Seneca Falls was the site of the first women’s rights convention in 1848.

Reading about the amazing lives and accomplishments of the women profiled in the Hall of Fame got me to wondering whether any of my ancestors were involved in women’s rights issues. So, when I returned to Missouri, I looked through my tree, focusing on women who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As I scanned the names of my great grandmothers and grand aunts, I believe that my maternal great grand aunt, Florence Irvine Chandler (1879-1962), whispered in my ear: “Hello! Boy, did I ever have a great life!”

Florence “Flora” C. Irvine was the eldest daughter of Arthur Irvine and Amelia Beach Irvine. She was born in January, 1879, in Oil Creek Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Arthur, a Civil War veteran, was a machinist working the oil fields in Crawford County. Sadly, Arthur and Amelia had lost their first born, Lewis Walter Irvine (age 3), the year before Florence was born.

Titusville Herald 5 March 1878

A few years after Florence arrived, Arthur moved the family, which included his wife Amelia, son Arthur (from his 1st marriage), daughter Florence, and Amelia’s parents, William A. Beach and Adeline Palmer Beach, about 80 miles east to Duke Center, in McKean County, PA. Arthur’s younger brother, Ephraim, may have encouraged the move; he was working as a coal dealer in McKean County at the time.

Florence grew up in Duke Center, along with her half-brother, Arthur, younger sister, Edith, and brothers, George and Henry. Arthur worked as a machinist in the oil industry. Grandfather William Beach worked at farming for the family, while Amelia and grandmother Adeline kept the house. When Florence was about 18 years old, she left Duke Center to attend school in Buffalo, NY.

I pondered for a while on what influenced Florence to leave her home in a small Pennsylvania town to live and attend school in a city 85 miles distant. Her mother, Amelia, had been a school teacher before marrying Arthur; perhaps she passed on a love of learning to her daughter. But I think Florence had decided upon learning a skill in order to be a self-supporting working girl. The 19th century was coming to a close and I imagine Florence was caught up in the momentum of the changing role of women in society.

Florence attended Masten Park High School, which opened in September of 1897 with a faculty of 32 instructors. There were only 92 students in the first graduating class in 1899. When Florence graduated in 1900, the number of graduates was about 156.
Masten Park High School

1897 Masten Park High School Faculty

1897 Masten Park High School Faculty

While attending school, Florence boarded with the William & Rosa Messing family. The Messings had two daughters, Nellie and Lottie, both close in age to Florence. Nellie and Lottie were employed as stenographers. Their father, William Messing, was an engineer more than capable of supporting his daughters. Yet these young ladies were educated and employed. Evidently, Florence resided with like-minded people: they recognized the capabilities of women.

Florence was 21 years old when she graduated from Masten Park School in 1900. She went on to secure a bookkeeping job and boarded with the family of John Ansteth, a jeweler. When her sister, Edith, graduated from school, they got an apartment together. Edith worked as a stenographer for the phone company.

Around 1900, Florence met Lyman Chandler, a bachelor school teacher 11 years her senior. Lyman was a graduate of Syracuse University and Albion College in Michigan. I don’t know how they met, but on my next visit to New York, I’ll know a lot more about their courtship. Digging into the life of Lyman Chandler, I discovered that a cache of letters which he wrote to Florence between 1900 and 1901 are part of the Roycroft-Hubbard Papers held in the Rare Books Collection at the University of Rochester.

Lyman was teaching and employed as secretary to Elbert G. Hubbard at the Roycroft Communty in East Aurora when he met Florence. In 1902, he left Roycroft to take a position with Wilshire’s Monthly Magazine, published by H. Gaylord Wilshire. I’m uncertain as to when he returned to East Aurora, but by 1905 he was back, married to Florence and working again as secretary to Elbert Hubbard at the Roycroft Shop.

New York, State Census, 1905

New York, State Census, 1905

Roycroft Shop 1900 ; Library of Congress photo

Roycroft Shop on Main Street in East Aurora, NY, circa 1900 ; Library of Congress photo

Florence gave birth to her only child, Lyman Chandler Jr., in September, 1907. While keeping the home for her family, Florence also made time to be active in the community. From 1915-1917, she was president of the East Aurora Women’s Club. While the Women’s Club was concerned with domestic life — their meetings featured, for example, guest speakers who gave demonstrations on the use of chafing dishes — it seems the leadership role that Florence assumed in the Club served as good experience for the community roles she took on in the future.

When I first started looking deeper into Florence, I knew little about her. A quick search of the Old Fulton NY Post Cards newspaper collection produced a slew of articles recounting her very active life in the community. The first article to immediately catch my eye was this headline from February 1928:

Buffalo Courier-Express Thursday Feb 2 1928

Buffalo Courier-Express Thursday Feb 2 1928

Florence had become active with the League of Women Voters a few years earlier, attending a state-wide convention held in Syracuse in 1926. Whether she was a suffragette in the years leading up to women gaining the right to vote in 1920, I don’t know. But it is certainly plausible, as Lyman’s boss, Elbert Hubbard, had married the noted feminist writer and suffragette, Alice Moore Hubbard. I think it quite likely that the Hubbards and the Chandlers were good friends and ran in the same social circle.

Elbert and Alice Hubbard perished aboard the Lusitania in 1915. The impact on Lyman and Florence when they learned of the tragedy can only be imagined. Lyman had worked closely with Elbert for over ten years and was a strong advocate for the Roycroft Community. Lyman was principal of the school at Roycroft, wrote articles for a magazine produced by the community, The Philistine, and wrote a book about the Roycrofter Shop.

Throughout the 1920s, Florence worked with the League of Women Voters to gain women the right to serve on juries. (The fight took 10 years to achieve; it wasn’t until 1937 that the New York legislature finally passed a bill making it law.) While living in East Aurora, Florence also served as a director on the school board and helped to raise funds for the local public library, where Lyman often gave talks on literary topics and book collecting.

In 1919, Lyman went to work at the Niagara Falls Gazette where he served as superintendent of the job printing department for 27 years. The Chandlers remained in East Aurora until about 1929. During that time, Lyman, Jr., attended the University of Buffalo. By 1930, the Chandlers moved to Niagara Falls, renting a house very close to the Falls at 562 3rd Street.

First Unitarian Church, Niagara Falls

First Unitarian Church, Niagara Falls

Throughout the 1930s, Florence continued to work toward gaining women the right to serve on New York juries. Lyman Jr. graduated from MIT “with high honors” in 1931. The Chandlers were members of the First Unitarian Church, and Florence served as an officer in the church’s Women’s Alliance. In 1936, Florence led a discussion at the meeting of the Niagara Falls Republican Women’s Club on issues related to immigration. She was also active in the local YWCA, serving as chairman of the public affairs committee. Lyman was a leader in the Niagara Falls Poetry Society, to which Florence also belonged and served as membership committee chairman.

When the War started in Europe, Florence threw herself into action with the Red Cross. She served as chairman of production for the Niagara Falls chapter, and by the War’s end had overseen the shipment of “over 20,000 articles of clothing, in addition to thousands of layettes, toddlers packs, soldier kits, Christmas bags, shelter sheets and other articles;  maintained a large production and shipping center and coordinated work of thousands of women.” (Niagara Falls Gazette, March 1945).

Niagara Falls Gazette, Sept. 6, 1940

Niagara Falls Gazette, Sept. 6, 1940

After the War, Florence’s hard work and dedication were recognized at an awards luncheon at which she was the guest of honor — having dedicated more hours of service than anyone.

Niagara Falls Gazette, May 24, 1946

Niagara Falls Gazette, May 24, 1946

Florence was 66 years old when the War ended; Lyman was 77. A year later, in 1946, Lyman retired from work at the Niagara Falls Gazette. The elderly couple moved back to East Aurora and the pace of life slowed to visiting with their son, his wife Elena and their grandson, Robert Chandler (b.1943), and modest involvement in community affairs.

At the age of 83, Florence passed away on Feb. 28, 1962. I was 7 months old. Lyman passed away 3 years later at the age of 96. They are interred at Oakwood Cemetery in East Aurora.

The sub-title of this post is, “Head, Heart and Hands.” The quotation comes from John Ruskin and formed the Roycroft doctrine: “A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness.” I believe that Florence epitomized this with her life. I find her life inspiring and worth remembering by all future generations in our family.

Head Heart Hands


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5 Responses to Florence Irvine Chandler (1879-1962) : Head, Heart and Hands

  1. Mark Peek says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. Your article is fascinating to say the least. Lyman Chandler was my grandfather’s second cousin and your information about his wife, Florence, adds another dimension to my own genealogical research. I was also surprised by your mention of Missouri since I live in Columbia.

    Mark Peek

    • Site Admin says:

      Hello Mark,
      Thank you for the note. :o) In my post, I mentioned some letters that Lyman sent to Florence when they were courting. I did go to the Univ of Rochester Archives to photograph all of Lyman’s Chandler’s letters to Florence. There were about 100 of them! I was hoping for some genealogical nuggets in them, but they pretty much deal with his comings and goings peppered with his feelings for her. I need to do a blog post about them. The U of R has a cache of documents from Lyman Chandler’s father (“Lyman Chandler Family Papers 1825-1905“). I didn’t view them while I was there, as I am not directly related to the Chandler family. I went to Roycroft Village in East Aurora with members of my NY family. It’s a wonderful place! When I go back to NY next fall I will definitely visit East Aurora again.

      • Mark Peek says:

        A trip to the UR Archives is on my bucket list when I retire next year. Now, I’ll know what to expect and will budget my time accordingly. The last time I was in East Aurora visiting relatives and doing family-history research, I stayed at 898 East Main Street which is the former home of S. Harris Peek, who was Lyman’s mother’s first cousin. At that time, the house was a B&B, but I’m not sure if Ed and Martha Collins are still in the business. East Aurora is a beautiful town and the Roycroft campus is a great place to explore.

        I think a blog post would be fascinating. You’re an engaging writer and I for one would read it!

  2. Mark Peek says:

    Visiting the UR archives is on my bucket list when I retire next year. Now, I’ll know what to expect and will budget my time accordingly. I’ve been to East Aurora several times to visit relatives and long to return to continue my genealogical research. The last time I visited EA I stayed at 898 East Main Street which is the former home of S. Harris Peek, who was Lyman’s mother’s first cousin. At that time the house was a B&B (Green Glen). I’m not sure if Ed and Martha Collins are still in the business since my last trip was over 10 years ago. I had a wonderful time. I love EA and the Roycroft campus is beautiful.

    I think a blog post about the Chandler letters would be fascinating. You’re a very engaging writer and I for one would read every word!

  3. Site Admin says:

    I will need to book a stay at the the Green Glen, Mark, it sounds charming! And I will post about those letters in the near future. Be well!

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