Mary Woodbury Lacy was born in rural New York in 1824. She married Dr. Samuel Lacy in 1846 and came to Lima, Iowa in 1855 with four children, Burritt, Benjamin, Charles and Frank. A daughter, Louisa, was born in Lima in 1859.
In 1865, Mary Woodbury Lacy left her husband and two eldest sons, who were approximately sixteen and eighteen, and returned to New York with the three youngest children. There she studied medicine at the Homeopathic New York Medical College for Women. Although no records from this period are included in the collection, it is noteworthy that Clemence Lozier, the founder of this hospital, was active in health reform and a close friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Mary Woodbury Lacy practiced medicine in the Ithaca, New York area for twenty years and did not return to Iowa until 1886, when ill health urged her to accept the care of her son, Benjamin. The eldest son of Samuel and Mary Lacy had died as a young man, but the second son Benjamin had attended Upper Iowa University before embarking on a career in law.
By 1886, he had become a successful Dubuque lawyer and civic leader. The family of his wife, May Robinson Lacy, was also prominent in Dubuque society. May’s sister Belle Robinson, whose health was frail since a fall from a horse at a young age, kept a diary from August 1875- April, 1877 when she was approximately thirteen and fourteen years old. Belle Robinson apparently died of this illness in 1887.
In Dubuque, Benjamin Lacy had joined the law firm of Robinson and Adams and married May Robinson, oldest daughter of Frank and Laura Goddard Robinson. Laura Robinson was an early member of the Dubuque Ladies’ Literary Association (DLLA), one of the earliest women’s clubs in the United States.
According to historian Louise Noun in Strong-Minded Women, officers of the DLLA formed the Northeastern Iowa Suffrage Association in 1869; it was the first suffrage association in Iowa.
Frank and Laura Robinson had three children, May, Belle and Grace. Belle Robinson kept a diary from 1875 to 1877 and 1878-1879 when she was twelve to sixteen years of age. Her health was never strong and she died in 1887. Her mother died two years later. Benjamin and May Lacy had six children, Frank, Burritt, Laura, Robert, Clive and Margaret. Grace Robinson married Benjamin Lacy’s first cousin, Westel Willoughby, and had two children, Robinson and Laura.
The Woodbury and Lacy Family History series (1880s-2001) includes a variety of genealogical papers, photographs of the Woodbury and Lacy families, a photocopy of a letter written by Mary Woodbury Lacy to her grown children, and an excerpt from Benjamin Lacy’s diary that covers his mother’s last illness and death.
There are also photocopies of published materials concerning the Iowa frontier and New York medical schools that provide ancillary information about Mary Woodbury Lacy. Photographs of the Robinson home in Dubuque and members of the DLLA were photocopied from a history of Dubuque County and donated with the original material. Newspaper articles about Laura Robinson’s role in the Northeast Iowa Suffrage Association are also included.
A timeline of the Robinson family, obituaries, and newspaper articles complete the series.