Little-known women influenced city
By MICHAEL HAWFIELD
from the archives of The News-Sentinel
March is Women's History Month. But only a few women are readily recognized in the historical traditions of Fort Wayne.
There's Tahcumwah , the sister of Little Turtle, whose business and
political savvy guided the civil affairs of the Miami tribes at Kekionga.
Mother George, too, is remembered as the courageous and tireless Civil War
nurse who lost her own life to the diseases that ravaged army hospitals.
But there are scores of lesser-known women who made their positive mark on
Fort Wayne. Here are a few of them.
Emerine Hamilton (1810-1889), the book-loving feminist
Among those who helped settle Fort Wayne after the military days was
Emerine Jane Hamilton, the first of a brilliant line of Hamilton women whose
impact was felt well into the middle of the 20th century.
Emerine Holman was born in Aurora, Ind., in 1810. In 1827, at age 17, she
married Allen Hamilton, an Irish entrepreneur and frontier merchant, moved to
Fort Wayne, and settled with him in the remains of the old fort. The
cultivation of the mind and spirit through books was precious to her, and she
was intent upon passing this educational attitude to her children and
grandchildren - and to the growing community in which she lived.
Determined to bring books to the public, Emerine started the city's first
public library, the Fort Wayne Free Reading Room in 1887 on the corner of West
Wayne and Webster streets. The room was renamed the Emerine J. Hamilton
Library and served as the city's only library until 1895, when the tax-
supported Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County was opened.
Carrie Gifford Shoaff (flourished in the 1870s and 1880s), reporter,
Gifford Shoaff was Fort Wayne's first newspaper woman, as well as a
playwright, and an artist of some distinction. After marrying U.S. Shoaff of
Huntington in 1869, her work began appearing in the mid-1870s in the Fort
The owner of the Gazette, Martin Spencer, was the one who got Gifford
Shoaff to write "chatty letters" for the paper. He paid $2 for a good Sunday
article. Shoaff eventually established her beat as a special New York
correspondent. From her headquarters there in the Sturtevant Hotel, she
interviewed prominent people in literature and the arts and sent her reports
back to Fort Wayne.
Julia Emmanuel (1871-1962), the colorful pharmacist
Julia Emmanuel was Fort Wayne's first woman pharmacist. She was also known
as "The Lady in Lavender."
Julia was born in Antwerp, Ohio, in 1871. Her father, a physician, died
while she was still quite young. Her mother used his office stock of drugs to
start a small pharmacy in order to keep the family going. Julia went to the
University of Michigan and graduated in 1889 with a degree in pharmacy. She
was the only woman in her class and one of the first ever to graduate from the
university's school of pharmacy.
She went to work in the Meyer Brothers Store in Fort Wayne. She stayed on
for 10 years, although she was never allowed to attend customers directly at
the counter; there was fear that a woman's presence might hurt business.
But in 1902, Julia set out on her own: She opened a small pharmacy in the
"Arcades" section of Berry Street.
By 1922, she had become extremely well-known, respected, and sufficiently
successful to enter partnership with Dr. L. Park Drayer. Together, they
purchased the lot at 123 W. Wayne St., and built the Drayer Emmanual Building.
This time when the shingle was hung out, it read "Miss Emmanuel's Chemist's
In 1942, she sold her business to the Jefferson Pharmacy.
It was one of her eccentricities (and a trademark) to dress in lavender, a
color she wore most of the time and used often in her household furnishings.
She even used purple wrapping paper and ribbons for her customers at the
Marie McDonald Kane (1890-1974), widow with a welcome
Marie McDonald was born in Fort Wayne, and married Dr. Alfred Kane in 1911.
She seemed settled into the role of physician's wife and mother of three when
Kane died in 1928. The impact of the Great Depression completed the tragedy.
But Marie Kane was a survivalist who found ways to use her abilities. She
learned about an Illinois organization called the Civic Activity Association
which, for a fee, promoted a city through a welcome program to new arrivals
and potential investors. Taking the cue, the widow established herself as Fort
Wayne's unofficial "Civic Hostess" and called on more than 300 newcomers her
first year in business.
--March 7, 1994