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. I tracked it down in 2009, when I was enrolled in a graduate class on research techniques at George Mason University. The package contained a master’s thesis I’d requested through an interlibrary loan, “Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore: More Than Footnote in History” (2000). The author is Dan Sidmore, Eliza Scidmore’s distant relative.
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 thesis is an excellent account of the family’s background and a summary of Eliza’s life and accomplishments. He wrote it based on a decade of research, drawing in part on the contributions of another descendant of Eliza, the late Judge S. Bruce Scidmore. By the way, the spelling of Dan’s name is correct; he says his branch of the family dropped the silent “c” in Scidmore.
Dan lives in DeKalb, Illinois, where last summer I visited him and his wife, Jennie, to talk about Eliza and compare research findings. (Thanks, Jennie, for sending me off with scones for the long drive to Ohio.) Dan too has many questions he’s still trying to answer about Eliza’s life. One thing we know for sure: She was a modern woman far ahead of her time.