Wayne County Biographies

Historical Women Firsts of Wayne County

By Leola Sutton

"These short bios were compiled from information I obtained from the Butler Historian's records and the Lyons Historian's office."


"First woman physician - Lyons, NY."

Dr. Burroughs was born in Florence, Italy on 11 August, 1826. Her early life is not well-known, except that she lived for a short while in Skaneateles and Elmira. She attended the New England Female Medical College in Boston MA, graduating in 1860. She then began practicing medicine in Lyons, and for many years she was the only female physician in Wayne County. In the 1867-68 Wayne County Directory, Dr. Burroughs is listed as an "eclectic physician." She was part of the movement within the medical field called Eclecticism. Rather than subscribing to only one discipline of treatment, these physicians preferred to choose from all available types of treatments. For example, Dr. Burroughs might have treated patients with herbs as well as using the drugs of the period. Eclecticism or Reform Medicine, as it was also called, was very popular in New England, Upstate New York, and Ohio. An interesting facet of this movement is that it actually encouraged women to study and practice medicine. Dr. Burroughs practiced in Lyons for nearly 30 years. She died of tuberculosis on 11 September 1894, and is buried in the Lyons Rural Cemetery.

Kathryn Moran WYKLE

"First woman to be elected Mayor of a NY village."

Kathryn Wykle was born 1 January, 1869 in Clyde. Her parents were John E. and Bridget MORAN. Kathryn had two older sisters. She graduated from Clyde High School and from the Geneseo Normal School in 1890. For 35 years, she served as teacher in the school systems of Syracuse, Lyons, and Clyde. Her husband was Alexander Wykle, a local farmer, who she married in 1930. Kathryn was always fascinated with politics, and she became quite active in the Democratic party. In March 1937, she was elected as Mayor of the village of Clyde. Two years later she was elected for a second two-year term. During her terms, several large businesses were brought to the village. They were the Vulcan Heel and Acme Electric Corp. The latter became General Electric. Both of these companies greatly boosted the economy of the village. Kathryn Wykle died suddenly on 10 May 1957 at the age of 88 years.

Antoinette Brown BLACKWELL

"First woman ordained/installed minister in the United States."

Antoinette Louisa BROWN was born 20 May, 1825 on a farm in Henrietta, NY. She was a student at Oberlin College, Ohio in 1847 when her father wrote the following letter. "Your mother and I are shocked by your boldness and lack of wisdom. I just cant believe this thing. Your mother is prostrate. I am doing you a kindness in refusing to help you carry out a plan that can only bring you unhappiness and disgrace." The "thing" that had her parents so upset was that Antoinette wanted to become a minister. Despite the refusal of her parents to fund her studies, the young woman worked and saved and eventually completed courses at Oberlin Seminary. But even though she had graduated, she was not allowed to obtain a license to preach. So for a time, she turned to social reform and speaking tours in the cause of womens rights. She met many of the leading thinkers of the day, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher and others. On July 4, 1853, she was the first woman to give an Independence Day address and it was at South Butler in Wayne County, NY. The Congregational church in this tiny village subsequently called her to be their preacher, and on 15 September, 1853, she became the first woman in the United States to be ordained/installed as a minister. She wrote in her diary "I have accepted a call to the Congregational Church in South Butler, NY. It is a very poor and small church and my salary is three hundred dollars a year, ample I believe for my needs in this small community it is what I want, although it rolls upon the spirit a burden of deep responsibility." The day of her ordination/installation was rainy and miserable. Since the roof of the Congregational church was leaking, the Baptist Elder Coons, allowed the use of his church for the ceremony. A number of Antoinette's friends were in attendance, including Rev. William H. Channing from Rochester, Hon. Gerrit Smith, reform candidate for President of the United States, and Rev. Luther Lee, prominent Congregationalist from Syracuse. Although Horace Greeley could not attend himself, he sent two reporters to cover the story. The ceremony was short, and when it was over, Antoinette Brown was the first minister of her sex in America. The following November she performed a marriage ceremony for the daughter of her old friend from Rochester, Rhoda de Garmo. She also presided at the funeral service of Mrs. Pratt. Antoinette did not remain long at South Butler, however. The people were unable to embrace her view of a kind, gentle, and loving God. They preferred to maintain their narrow-minded concept of a fierce, cruel and vengeful God. So in 1854 she left for her former home in Henrietta, NY. She later married Samuel Blackwell, a brother of Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman to graduate from a medical school (Geneva, NY). Antoinette raised five daughters, carried on a heavy schedule of lectures and wrote many books throughout the remainder of her life. Oberlin College eventually bestowed her with two honorary degrees. She preached her last sermon when she was ninety and died at the age of 97. She was well-respected all her life a pioneer who made history in South Butler.

The following book is available at The Lyons Historians office and at many libraries. "Antoinette Brown Blackwell: A Biography" by Elizabeth Cazden, 1983.

Submitted by Leola Sutton

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Created: 3/5/01
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