-by Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar, Montgomery County Historian/RMO - Mar, 2007
In a time when women did not have a voice in politics or were seldom taken seriously in society, we see evidence of a number of females, especially locally, who have made lasting impressions upon history. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are among the most notable women with local ties who “broke the barrier” so to speak in which women were more vocal in the national arena and were given more consideration by their male counterparts. Women were now starting to be looked upon as having the capability to be intellectual and make significant contributions to whatever issue they encountered. Two other, lesser known, individuals with local ties also helped to make a dent in the “barrier” that precluded women from having a voice in society.
The first woman, an Irish immigrant, lived in Amsterdam during the city’s industrial boom era. Lenora Kearney Barry was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1849. Growing up in St. Lawrence County, New York, she came to Montgomery County with her husband, William, and two children. Prior to her marriage, Lenora became a teacher at the age of 16. Adhering to the belief that married women should not work outside the home, Lenora gave up teaching when she married in 1871.
Shortly after the birth of their third child, Leonora's husband, William Barry, a painter and musician with Amsterdam’s Thirteenth Brigade Band, died from consumption in 1881 at the young age of 38. Raising three small children on her own forced Lenora to seek work. In later correspondence, Lenora is quoted as saying ‘to support these children it was my duty to go out in the army of the employed and in one of the largest factories in central New York I went, and for four years and seven months remained a factory woman for the support of my little ones.’ Incidentally, Leonora's eight-year old daughter died four months after William's death.
Working at the Pioneer Hosiery mill stitching men’s long underwear for more than twelve hours a day, Lenora Barry made eleven cents a day and brought home 65 cents in her first six-day work week. Conditions were abhorrent with short lunch breaks, children working all day instead of attending school, and constant sexual harassment of the female employees by their male supervisors. Dismissal threatened any worker who joined the unions.
In spite of the possibility of losing her employment and the further economic hardship facing her family, Leonora Barry joined the fledging union, the Knights of Labor on the basis that this was an organization working towards equitable pay between the sexes for performing the same work. Rising quickly among the ranks to the position of Master Workman, Leonora was elected in 1886 as a delegate to the Knights of Labor General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia.
Her new position required extensive travel around the nation, which meant leaving her little ones, investigating working conditions of women and children and advocating improvement for factory employees. Before discontinuing her work with the Knights of Labor to remarry, Leonora Barry was instrumental in the passage of Pennsylvania's first factory inspection law in 1889.
Continuing activity in movements for women's suffrage and temperance, Leonora Barry-Lake, or "Mother Lake" as she was often called, moved to Illinois where she lived out the remainder of her life, passing away in 1930 at the age of 80.
The second woman, a Montgomery County native, made great strides not only in overcoming the educational limits set upon females but also in breaking the professional boundaries as well. Caroline L. Garlock, born January 12, 1867 to Menzo and Jane Ann (Armstrong) Garlock, grew up in the small rural village of Ames, south of Canajoharie. The youngest of three daughters, Caroline received her education in the one-room schools and the Ames Academy. While most young women of the time received only an elementary or secondary level education, very few sought to further their education with a college degree or even to enter into a profession. Those that did became teachers. Following in her mother’s and sisters’ footsteps, Caroline did the same and began teaching in the country schools.
At some point, however, Caroline’s life took a turn in another direction. She decided to enter the medical profession when it was very rare to see women in this particular field. She graduated with a medical degree from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1896. With immediate offers from the State Hospital in Kalamazoo and an internship at the Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Garlock chose the latter spending one year prior to returning home to Ames where she opened up a general medical practice in 1897. With an office set up two doors down from the Free Baptist Church and three doors from the Academy where she instructed during her childhood, Dr. Garlock maintained a busy practice for almost twenty years.
By 1918, Dr. Garlock moved her practice to Front Street in the Village of Canajoharie. Although her office was in the village, she traveled the countryside to numerous nearby communities visiting shut-in patients by her horse-driven black buggy. She also served on the staff of the Amsterdam City Hospital.
Dr. Garlock, sometimes described as stern by those who knew her, was widely known for her compassion and generosity. She reputedly accepted payment in the form of various items from those patients who did not have the cash to pay her for her services. Her obituary Courier-Standard reflected on her personality “she was liberal in her views and her keen mind never lost interest in world events or local affairs.”
A member of both the New York State Medical Society and the Montgomery County Medical Society, the latter group honored Dr. Garlock in 1948 for her fifty years of service in the medical profession. The respect with which she was regarded by her colleagues is evidenced in the resolution passed by the Montgomery County Medical Society at the time of her death related that they lost “one of its oldest and most highly esteemed members and one of the few women to practice medicine for over a half century.”
Caroline Garlock passed away in November 1949 at the age of 82 years. She is interred in the Ames Cemetery.