Meet Eliza Scidmore’s Cousin

Jennie and Dan Scidmore

Jennie and Dan Sidmore (Photo: Diana Parsell)

The day I received a package in the mail from Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, is when I finally knew that writing a book on Eliza Scidmore might be possible. The package contained a master’s thesis I’d requested through an interlibrary loan, “Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore: More Than a Footnote in History” (2000). I tracked it down when I was starting my book and enrolled in a graduate class on research techniques at George Mason University.

The author is Dan Sidmore, Eliza Scidmore’s distant cousin.

That document was like the Rosetta Stone — a key that began to unlock many of the questions I’d had about Eliza Scidmore, especially her personal life. Dan’s well-researched thesis describes the family’s background and summarizes Eliza’s life and accomplishments.

Dan wrote it, with the help of his wife, Jennie, drawing heavily on a decade of research by another descendant of Eliza Scidmore, the late Judge S. Bruce Scidmore. (The spelling of Dan’s name here is correct; he says his branch of the family dropped the silent “c” in Scidmore.)

I tracked down Dan at his home in DeKalb, Illinois, and arranged a visit to discuss his book. He too has many lingering questions he’s trying to answer about Eliza Scdimore’s life.

One thing we both know for sure: She was a woman far ahead of her time.

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