Two nights ago, with Mrs. Parkman still fresh in my mind, I happened to pull the Fall 2005 issue of History & Heritage, the magazine of the Columbia County Historical Society, off the shelf for a reason that had nothing to do with Mrs. Parkman. The issue was devoted the Women of Columbia County, and exploring it, I found an article by the late John Fout entitled "'Women Worthies' of Columbia County." Among the three Victorian ladies Fout included in the piece was Zilpha Parkman, Mrs. William E. Parkman. (The other two ladies were Sally McKinstry and Mrs. Russell W. Miller.) Before quoting the biography of Zilpha Parkman, which appeared in the 1894 volume Biographical Review, Fout had this to say about her:
Zilpha Parkman was unique among the three women presented here as she evidently was an ardent feminist, although the biography which follows does not provide us with any information on her political activities nor organizations. That issue begs for further research. Though she was born in Pine Plains in Dutchess County, she came to Hudson when she married in 1847 and there may well have been feminist organizations in Hudson in the late nineteenth century. Because of her later paralysis, Zilpha epitomized another common feature of many Victorian women, she was an invalid. . . .
Mrs. Zilpha McArthur Parkman, a lady long prominent in the social and religious circles of Hudson, is the widow of one of its distinguished citizens, William E. Parkman, who died at his family residence, 121 Warren Street, December 16, 1886, in the same room wherein he was born eighty-six years before. He was the son of Thomas and Hannah (Spencer) Parkman, of Hartford, Conn., who were married in Hudson whither they came long before anybody dreamed it could ever be a city. . . .
Mrs. Zilpha M. Parkman was born in Pine Plains, Dutchess County, N.Y., May 22, 1820. She came to her marital home as a bride in 1847, when she was in the very prime of young womanhood. Her father, Duncan Wilkinson, was a Scotch Quaker, and died when Zilpha was a little girl of four, so young that her remembrance of him is very shadowy. Settling in Pine Plains, he wedded a young lady of German family, Elizabeth, the daughter of John Hoysradt, of Gotha, Germany, the eldest son of parents so wealthy that by birthright he owned nearly a thousand acres of land in Dutchess County. The Wilkinsons had three boys and as many girls, and Zilpha was the fifth child in the order of birth. One brother, Hiram Hoysradt Wilkinson, lives in Hillsdale, Columbia County; but the others have all passed into higher spheres. Mrs. Parkman was educated in Kinderhook Academy and in a select Hudson school; and then she herself taught school, giving special attention to various branches of art. Fortunate in inheriting ample means from both her parents and grandparents, she has been raised above all fear of want; but her nature has not allowed all her to sit with idle hands, and she used always to have some needful work by her side. Children have not been numerous in the Parkman family, and she has not been blessed in that direction.
Her husband was for fifty-six years an honored, zealous, and consistent member of the Presbyterian church, and for thirty-four years held the trusted office of elder. In business he was so prosperous as to be able to retire with a competence for the last twenty years of his earthly life, and died with certainty of treasures laid up in heaven. He was first a Whig and then a Republican in politics. Mrs. Parkman came of both Scotch and English Tory blood, and her sympathies have never been fully with either party in American politics; but one thing she feels keenly, that, while paying large taxes, and amenable to the laws of our great and glorious republic, she like the rest of her sex, is not permitted to have any part in making the laws, or electing the officers, under which she is subjected. Though physically weakened by paralysis, Mrs. Parkman is mentally healthful, and an exceedingly pleasant lady to meet and converse with. In her quiet life she feels much of the inner light which the friends like to speak about. In that she finds peace and hope in the thought expressed by the couplet.
Because that light hath in thee shined
In which is perfect day.
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