Emily Curtis Fisher

Emily Curtis Fisher around 20 years of age.

Emily Curtis Fisher was born on May 21, 1866, in South Dedham, Massachusetts. Her father’s William’s family, the Fishers, owned substantial farmland on Neponset street. William’s farm was over 60 acres in size, and his brother Leonard’s adjacent farm was even larger at more than 75 acres. The family operated Neponset Valley Farm on their land along US Route 1 for many years. Years later some of their land on the other side of Neponset street became the Fisher Gardens apartments and the Callahan school was built on land belonging to Emily Curtis Fisher.

Emily grew up on that farmland, surrounded by cows and cornfields, but was still highly educated. She turned 6 years old in 1872 when Norwood became a town, so she was among the first graduates of the Norwood School system who never attended a South Dedham School. She studied teaching at the Bridgewater State Normal School, graduating in 1887. She taught in the Weymouth High school for the 1888 school year, then returned to the Normal school as an instructor in English and Geometry in 1889, where she and Miss Fannie A. Comstock developed the English courses for the school. She studied English at Radcliffe College, a women’s liberal arts college in Cambridge that was considered the female equivalent of the all-male Harvard College; and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also spent a year traveling in Europe, taking courses of study in Paris and Berlin.

After graduation, she became an instructor at Bridgewater Normal School, (now known as Bridgewater State University), the first school ever erected in America for the preparation of teachers. After graduating from the Bridgewater State Normal School she taught in the Weymouth High school

 Group of Normal School students who sat at the dining table headed by 
faculty member Emily C. Fisher, seated on the right of the bench, ca. 1890–1896 (Photo: historyinphotos)
Emily Curtis Fisher is seated at center left of this 1899 photo of the Bridgewater Normal School faculty.

Civic Engagement

She dedicated the rest of her life to Civic Affairs, and advancing the cause of women’s suffrage.

Fisher spoke at the 70th annual Plymouth County Teacher’s Association meeting in 1903, delivering an address on “The Growth of English Expression”.

The following year, she was elected President of the Norwood Women’s Club. In May 1904 she traveled by train to St Louis to represent Norwood at the Massachusetts State Federation of Women’ Clubs biennial meeting. At the next State Federation meeting in 1906, she was elected as one of the directors and in 1907 the Federation elected her Chairman of Civic Affairs.

In February 1907 she was a charter member of the Norwood Historical Society and served as our first treasurer. Her interest in civic matters led to her time as a trustee of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood from 1907 to 1909. She also served on the Norwood school committee for many years, where she argued for higher salaries for teachers, estimating that the hidden expenses teachers faced based on her own years of teaching far exceeded their current salary.

Miss Fisher was also a long-standing member of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.

By this time she was a well known and sought after educational lecturer, speaking all over the state whenever she was called upon.

Miss Fisher hosted the Deliverance Munroe Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution of Malden at her home in June 1912. A delegation from the Hannah Balch Chickering Chapter met them on their arrival and escorted them to the house, where her mother Emily (Atkins) Fisher poured tea and sister-in-law Harriet (Blackman) Fisher poured coffee. Miss Fisher gave an address on the history of Norwood and the community, which was very well received.

In 1913 Grace Hodges Bagley of 67 Beech st invited 51 women – members of the Norwood Woman’s Club and other wealthy like-minded women – to meet at her house to listen to addresses on woman’s suffrage by Mrs Maude Wood Park, secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association, and Miss Mary Gay, corresponding secretary of the Massachusetts Woman’s Suffrage Association. A committee was formed, and it was voted to organize the Equal Suffrage League of the 10th Norfolk District, including Norwood, Westwood and Walpole, and to affiliate with the Massachusetts Woman’s Suffrage Association. Emily Curtis Fisher was elected treasurer. By 1915, the MWSA had over 58,000 members. After the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 gave women the right to vote, the MWSA became the Massachusetts League of Women Voters.

Mrs Bagely, her daughter Elizabeth and Miss Fisher went on an auto tour in the summer of 1913 to obtain signatures for a petition to Congress.

The Boston Equal Franchise Committee headquarters was located at 16 Federal st in Boston. Ex-Senator Parsons of Greenfield attended the final meeting before the lease expired in early July 1914. On that day, Miss Fisher delivered a speech entitled “Why Women Need the Vote and Why They Should Have It”. After losing the lease and with members now residing in country homes in the suburbs or visiting seashore cottages for the summer, they planned a Suffragette Auto Tour, organized like the previous summer, with the car carrying different speakers from week to week. The automobile left Boston for Bristol County the following Monday, swinging through Seekonk and Swansea where an open air meeting was held at the post office that evening. A horseback tour was conducted in Fall river on Tuesday by another group, while the first group held an open air meeting at Four Corners in Freetown. The Wednesday meeting was held in Westport, where Emily Curtis Fisher joined them. The last 2 days of the trip included meetings at Somerset and Dartmouth.

In March 1914 the Hannah Balch Chickering Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution named miss Fisher historian.

When the Norwood Board of Trade initiated a cleanup week in May 1914, members of the Norwood Women’s Club were among those involved, and Miss Fisher was named to the Committee responsible for furnishing the street cans.

Miss Fisher spoke to a large audience at an open air meeting held by the Boston Equal Suffrage Association on October 2, 1914, at Kilby and Milk st in Boston (now Post Office Square).

Nashville was the location of the 46th annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association meeting in 1914. The special train carrying the delegation from Massachusetts was decorated with large placards which read ‘Votes for Women”. Miss Fisher was among the delegation who left South Station on November 12 for the 5-day convention.

The National Women’s Rights Convention celebrated their 65th anniversary in 1915. Miss Fisher presided over the ceremony in Worcester at the Phillips statue on the Boylston st mall on the Public Garden in Boston.

Travel

In July 1895, she and her sister Nettie departed East Boston on the Cunard steamer Pavonia bound for England. Miss Fisher had been granted a leave of absence from the Bridgewater Normal School for travel and foreign study for the 1896 school year. The Fisher ladies were two of the 69 “saloon passengers”, an antiquated term for first class passengers. At that time, the North Atlantic passenger trade was in its infancy, and it was a relatively new idea to offer amenities like private cabins and hotel-style comforts to passengers who could afford to pay for them. One of these amenities were meals that could be eaten in the shared common space, called the saloon, along with the ship’s captain. As shipping lines began to compete for wealthy travelers, the size and luxury of a ship’s saloon soon became a selling point.

Miss Fisher remained abroad for almost a year, returning to Boston in time to be elected secretary of the Bridgewater Normal Association in June 1896.

In January 1900 she sailed from New York to Liverpool on the RMS Oceanic, only a few months after its maiden voyage, which took place in September 1899. Oceanic was the largest ship in the world and usually made the voyage in around 7 days.

On August 17, 1935 she departed England at Southampton on the Red Star line’s “Westernland”.

She lived at 345 Neponset Street (now Fisher Gardens) for her entire life.

Emily Fisher owned the land where the Callahan School sits today.

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