Two Awesome Ladies
Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822-1911) was the only daughter of the prominent New York philanthropist and abolitionist Gerrit Smith. Her childhood home in Peterboro, New York, was a center of hospitality, frequented by politicians and reform leaders, local Native Americans, and runaway African-Americans—who were both freed and fugitive slaves. Through her family experiences and her Quaker education, Elizabeth learned to respect all people and to work for improving the human condition. She married Charles Dudley Miller, a Cazenovia banker, when she was 21 years old and later returned to Peterboro to raise three sons and one daughter.
Early on, it was evident that Elizabeth's approach to womanhood was grounded in practicality and the straightforward thinking of the Quakers. As a young mother she adopted the short skirt style of dress in order to more safely navigate stairs and work in her garden. This dress reform was soon embraced by her cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and popularized by Amelia Bloomer, editor of The Lily, a temperance and women's rights newspaper. In order to encourage women to use their talents to raise money, Elizabeth made and sold marmalade and published a cookbook, In the Kitchen (1875).
Elizabeth encouraged the Geneva nurseryman William Smith, a suffrage supporter, to use his fortune to found the local women's college bearing his name. She also contributed her own funds to the women's dormitory and for educational loans to women. Her daughter Anne served as a trustee to implement his wishes and later contributed $2,000 to William Smith College for a tuition scholarship.
Elizabeth used her wealth and connections as well as her personal efforts to foster the suffrage cause. She was a faithful and generous suffrage pioneer. Elizabeth also supported the temperance and anti-slavery causes.
Her cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the Anthony sisters were frequent visitors to Lochland, her lakeside Geneva home. Lochland became a refuge for weary suffragists and other reformers.
Elizabeth's only daughter and youngest child, Anne Fitzhugh Miller (1856-1912), was born in Peterboro on March 4, 1856. She was 13 years old when the Miller family moved to Geneva in 1869. While still a teenager, Anne founded a summer camp, which she named Fossenvue, at Faussett's Point on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. For more than 30 years, family and friends came to Fossenvue to enjoy nature and camp life, to discuss philosophy, religion, and literature; and to "kindle the flame of friendship" and mutual respect between genders and across generations.
Anne compiled and published Embers from Fossenvue Backlogs, 1875-1900 to give as Christmas gifts in 1901. This book captures the spirit of this unique retreat through memories and poems contributed by guests and candid photographs of camp life. Anne's list of "Those Who Came" includes many of the suffragists and reformers represented in the scrapbooks: Susan B. Anthony, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Alice Stone Blackwell, Anna Comstock, Elizabeth Burrill Curtis, Annis and Samuel Eastman and their children Crystal and Max Eastman, Charles Goldmark, Pauline Goldmark, Emily Howland, Samuel Hopkins Ver Planck, Arthur P. Rose, Felix Adler, and Hobart professors Francis Nash and Joseph McDaniels.
Elizabeth Smith Miller, a founding member of the summer camp, was beloved as "Queen of Fossenvue." Her husband, Colonel Charles Dudley Miller, preferred the comforts of Lochland, but visited Fossenvue occasionally before his death in 1896.
Anne belonged to various suffrage and cultural organizations. She served as president of the Geneva Political Equality Club from 1898 to 1911. She was the first president of the Ontario County Political Equality Club, a leading member of the Legislative Committee of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association, and a life member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her steadfast contributions of time and money helped broadened awareness of the positive benefits of woman suffrage. She also belonged to Felix Adler's Society of Ethical Culture and to the Boston based Society for the Expression of the Christ Ideal. Anne also was a leading member of the Geneva Choral Society.