Jennie Casseday

Last updated
Jennie Casseday
Jennie Casseday.png
"A woman of the century"
BornJune 9, 1840
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedFebruary 8, 1893(1893-02-08) (aged 52)
Resting place Cave Hill Cemetery
Notable worksA letter concerning the ministry of flowers

Jennie Casseday (June 9, 1840 – February 8, 1893) was an American philanthropist, social reformer, school founder, and letter writer.


Casseday was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1840, her girlhood passed amid the surroundings of a wealthy Christian home. In 1861, she was thrown from a carriage; she survived the resulting spinal injury, but was physically disabled, and in pain for the rest of her life. It was her own love of flowers in the sick-room which first suggested the Flower Mission, and when Frances E. Willard went to Louisville in 1881, she gained Casseday's consent to become superintendent of this work for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). From that time till her death, she directed from her sick-bed world-wide plans for this philanthropy, personally conducting an immense correspondence in its interests. Besides her work in the Flower Mission, Casseday was the founder of the Jennie Casseday Infirmary, and the Louisville Training School for Nurses. [1]

Louisville, Kentucky City in Kentucky

Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the 29th most-populous city in the United States. It is one of two cities in Kentucky designated as first-class, the other being Lexington, the state's second-largest city. Louisville is the historical seat and, since 2003, the nominal seat of Jefferson County, located in the northern region of the state, on the border with Indiana.

Womans Christian Temperance Union international temperance organization

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is an active international temperance organization that was among the first organizations of women devoted to social reform with a program that "linked the religious and the secular through concerted and far-reaching reform strategies based on applied Christianity." It was influential in the temperance movement, and supported the 18th Amendment. It was also influential in social reform issues that came to prominence in the progressive era.

Early years

Jennie Casseday was born in Louisville, Kentucky, June 9, 1840. Her parents were Samuel Casseday (1795–1876) and Eliza McFarland Casseda (1800–1849). She had nine siblings including, Benjamin, S. Addison, Mary, and Fannie. [2]

Kentucky State of the United States of America

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it, (because in Kentucky's first constitution, the name state was used) Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth. Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky split from it and became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

Samuel Casseday Samuel Casseday.png
Samuel Casseday

Her father, Samuel, was a Virginian, a Presbyterian, and a slave owner. He was one of the wealthiest men in the city and he was constantly giving away large sums of money to charitable enterprises. [3] He was the eldest son of Peter Casseday, who was killed in the American Revolutionary War. [3] Her mother, Eliza, was born in Philadelphia of Ulster parents and held the British view of slavery. She donated the land on which the Presbyterian orphanage was, as well as a large sum of money with which to begin the building. [3] [4] Eventually, the family's slaves were freed and sent to Liberia paid for by the Cassedays. [5]

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Ulster province in Ireland

Ulster is a province in the north of the island of Ireland. It is made up of nine counties, six of which are in Northern Ireland and three of which are in the Republic of Ireland. It is the second largest and second most populous of Ireland's four provinces, with Belfast being its biggest city. Unlike the other provinces, Ulster has a high percentage of Protestants, making up almost half of its population. English is the main language and Ulster English the main dialect. A minority also speak Irish, and there are Gaeltacht in southern Londonderry, the Gaeltacht Quarter of Belfast and in Donegal, where 25% of the total Gaeltacht population of Ireland is located. Lough Neagh, in the east, is the largest lake in the British Isles, while Lough Erne in the west is one of its largest lake networks. The main mountain ranges are the Mournes, Sperrins, Croaghgorms and Derryveagh Mountains.

Childhood home Jennie Casseday home.png
Childhood home

Casseday was a normal little girl, born of rich, cultured parents who loved to give their children everything possible for happiness. She was so round, ruddy and sturdy that her big brothers called her "Dutch". That was her family nickname until she was nearly grown, until in fact it seemed pitiless to call her by it. The Casseday home was notable in its day. It stood on the corner of Fourth and Jefferson streets, where the Masonic Temple building was later built. At that time, this part of the city was considered the most fashionable residence quarter. [3] In 1844, Samuel bought an elevated plateau in the heart of Louisville and built a big house, providing winter romp-rooms for his daughters and a completely furnished carpenter shop for his son. This wise provision kept his children at home and also supplied companionship with the boys and girls of his friends. [5]

Eliza, the mother, died in 1849, when Casseday was nine years of age. Immediately after this, Miss Mary Ann McNutt, Eliza's half sister, took charge of the household, so continuing in authority as long as the father lived; afterwards, until her own death, keeping the family together. [2] [4] When Cassedy was well in her 'teens, Aunt McNutt called her "Miss Gadabout". [6]

Casseday's intense love for flowers, and for all nature, was an inheritance from her mother. The spacious grounds of the residence were laid off in figures and wide serpentine walks, with rare trees and flowers. There was a high stone retaining wall with a plantation border which was filled with lilacs, peonies, altheas, weigelias, golden elder, barberry bushes, calacanthus and moss roses. There were broad stretches of bluegrass, ending in circles and squares and half moons of roses. [6]

<i>Althaea</i> (plant) genus of plants

Althaea is a genus of 6–12 species of perennial herbs native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. It includes Althaea officinalis, also known as the marshmallow plant, whence the fluffy confection got its name. They are found on the banks of rivers and in salt marshes, preferring moist, sandy soils. The stems grow to 1–2 m tall, and flower in mid summer. The leaves are palmately lobed with 3–7 lobes. Althaea species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Bucculatrix quadrigemina.

<i>Sambucus</i> genus of plants

Sambucus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The various species are commonly called elder or elderberry. The genus was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified as Adoxaceae due to genetic and morphological comparisons to plants in the genus Adoxa.

Acanthaceae family of plants

Acanthaceae is a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants containing almost 250 genera and about 2500 species. Most are tropical herbs, shrubs, or twining vines; some are epiphytes. Only a few species are distributed in temperate regions. The four main centres of distribution are Indonesia and Malaysia, Africa, Brazil, and Central America. Representatives of the family can be found in nearly every habitat, including dense or open forests, scrublands, wet fields and valleys, sea coast and marine areas, swamps, and mangrove forests.

Just before Casseday graduated from school, her years of too intensive study exerted her brain, and a fever drifted for months. After that came a period of happy young womanhood, of boyfriends, travel, and social life. In 1861, [7] she was the victim of a terrible accident brought about by runaway horses, an overturned carriage, her body dragged along under the wheels, and maimed forever. [8]


Casseday kept a diary in which she wrote each night the blessings of the day as they had been experienced by her. Its first page was headed with this quotation: "Count your blessings, one by one." Under it she had written: "I cannot. They rush upon me like waters from a gargoyle." [9]

Flower Mission

Jennie Casseday JENNIE CASSEDAY.jpg
Jennie Casseday

From its initial number, The New York Observer , the most notable religious paper of its day, had been taken in the family home. In 1869, it was full of the story of a young Boston woman, teaching in Roxbury, Massachusetts, who, as she passed from place to place, noticed the great waste of flowers and fruits in the gardens of the rich, most notable when the owners were absent, or in summer. Sometimes, the teacher was given a bunch of roses and these she invariably gave them away to the children of the streets, children of poverty. Later she secured baskets of flowers and small fruits and made little detours on her way to school, so as to reach even the poorer districts. It was a simple act, simply done. This story fired the heart of Casseday, as she lay there in her bed. Day and night she thought of the young teacher of Roxbury. Her vision grew deeper and wider, and she came to realize the possibilities of such a ministry, and she developed a plan. She called to her bedside the influential women of Louisville, recognizing that what she hoped to create demanded team work and organization. Those whom she called came and plans were perfected at her bedside. A public meeting was arranged. Editors offered their columns; reporters did their best to float her project in a favororable fashion, and The Courier-Journal presented the use of a large room in its building with tables ready for tying up flowers. By the time of the first going forth, this room was crowded with flower missionaries and the tables heaped with flowers. [10]

It did not take long for the story of the Louisville Flower Mission, [11] and its invalid designer to get abroad. Letters came to Casseday from all over the world until Flower Missions were inaugurated in forty different U.S. States and countries.It was but a short step from the local Flower Mission to criminals confined in prisons. Jennie, herself confined to narrow quarters, soon began thinking of all sorts of "prisoners" and began planning to send the message of the flowers to States Prisons. Her board co-operated with her loyally and gladly. Her birthday, June 9, was set apart as Flower Mission Prison Day. By this time, Flower Missions had grown up in most of the U.S. States and large plans were made to visit all State and local prisons and reformatories on June 9. The co-operation of officers of prisons was secured beforehand, the number of prisoners learned, and it was asked that prisoners be asked to assemble in their chapels at a fixed hour. It was arranged to present each prisoner with a bouquet made of "something white, something bright, something sweet." A requisite was that each bouquet must have a text of scripture attached to it by a fine wire. Jennie herself selected a large number of texts and had them printed. But a missionary was at liberty to choose her own texts and write them with a pen. In fact Jennie thought the latter way might seem more personal and might bring good to the selector, as well as to the one for whom it was intended. [12]

In 1889, the "Society of Christian Workers" held its annual meeting in New York City and its secretary requested Casseday to send to it information regarding her Flower Mission work. She responded by sending a letter, which was read from the platform. There was at once a large demand for copies of this and it was soon put in booklet form for the convenience of all who wanted to know about this public service:— [13]

"It was four years after the Louisville Flower Mission was organized that Miss Frances E. Willard was in Louisville, the guest of my sister, Mrs. John Duncan. On the very last morning of her stay she came to my room and asked me to tell her all about my Mission work. I told it as simply and fully as I could and she listened intently. When I had finished, Miss Willard, with that quick perception and ready insight for which she is so remarkable, saw how Flower Missions might be grafted on to temperance work and bring forth rich harvests of good to both. She rose to her feet exclaiming, T have an inspiration; it is to establish a Flower Mission department of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and put you at its head as National Superintendent.' The very idea appalled me, and I felt it was impossible for me either to take on more work or to think of undertaking, from my little corner, a National Flower Mission.

At the next meeting of the National WCTU, in 1881, Willard spoke of Casseday and the Flower Missions. Then she proposed Casseday as "first Superintendent of a new department of the WCTU—the Flower Mission Department." She was unanimously elected, and in a short while she was elected to be Superintendent of the World's WCTU Flower Mission, which she held until her death. [14] Just fifteen years after Casseday had become President of the National Flower Mission, her Department reported to the National Convention of the WCTU that the Flower Mission Department had distributed more than 1,555,466 bouquets, 34,972 growing plants, 403,691 text cards, 1,398,122 pages of Flower Mission literature, 38,350 tumblers and jars of jelly and preserves, 15,788 bushels of fruit and vegetables, and 134,211 articles of clothing; 317,735 visits had been made to the poor and sick, besides 14,262 to public institutions, while 19,505 drives and outings were given to poor children, invalids and other worthy people. [15]

Other public service work

Caseseday's second large welfare work was to establish from her bedside an Order of King's Daughters in Louisville. It was a new conception of service at that time— new even in New York where it originated, and wholly unknown in Kentucky or the South. Casseday's sister told her the story of how the Order began, and how its basic motive was TO BE rather than TO DO, the Doing to spring spontaneously out of the Being. Casseday at once had a desire to help this movement. She thought over the personalities of those whom she always depended upon for co-operation in her schemes; and the personality of Jennie Benedict appealed to her as the one best fitted and equipped for the task. Benedict came at Casseday at her call and they conferred over Ways. They were never women to worry over Means. They examined the value of a proposed Christian work, weighed it, planned it out, and then simply expected the Means would arrive. At Casseday's bedside, she, her sister, and Benedict laid the foundations for the work of the King's Daughters in Louisville—a work which soon spread over Kentucky, then all over the Southland. [16]

Casseday was a co-organizer of the Lying-In Hospital for Pregnant Women of Small Means which was established in 1882. [7] She founded a nursing school in Louisville in 1889. [17] The district nurse work owed its establishment to Casseday's philanthropy, an outgrowth of contact with the sick poor through the flower mission. The training school for nurses was successfully operated for several years. In speaking of the training school for nurses, established in Louisville, Casseday says: "It was born in my heart through the ministry of suffering and a longing to help others, as was my connection with the Shut-In Band." The members of the Shut-In Hand consisted of men, women and children who are shut in by disease from the outside world, and of invalids who seldom or never left their rooms or beds. The name was selected from the sixteenth verse of the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Genesis: "And the Lord shut them in." These invalids wrote to one another and had an official organ, the Open Window, which contained letters and news for invalids. This band grew from three members to many thousands, living in all parts of the world. Casseday took much interest in that work and wrote many letters to her invalid friends. Another philanthropy was the opening of Rest Cottage, as a country home for tired girls and women who have to support themselves. There they could obtain good comfortable board at US$1 a week and rest from their worries for a week or two, entertained by Casseday herself. [18]

Shortly before her death, [17] the King's Daughters established a Jennie Casseday Free Infirmary in Louisville, which was to benefit poor and sick women. [18] She died February 8, 1893, Louisville, and was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. [7]

Selected works

Related Research Articles

Margaret Bright Lucas Suffragist and reformer

Margaret Bright Lucas was a British temperance activist and suffragist. She served as president of the British Women's Temperance Association (BWTA), the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and the Bloomsbury branch of the Women's Liberal Association.

Matilda Carse Irish-born American businesswoman, social reformer, publisher

Matilda B. Carse was an Irish-born American businesswoman, social reformer, publisher, and leader of the temperance movement. With Frances E. Willard and Lady Henry Somerset, Carse helped to found the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

S. M. I. Henry American evangelist, temperance reformer, poet, author

S. M. I. Henry was an American evangelist, temperance reformer, poet and author.

The Woman's Temperance Publishing Association (WTPA) was a non-commercial publisher of temperance literature. Established in 1879 in Indianapolis, Indiana during the national convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), it was a concept of Matilda Carse, an Irish-born American businesswoman, social reformer and leader of the temperance movement.

Esther Pugh American temperance reformer, editor, publisher

Esther Pugh was an American temperance reformer from Ohio. She served as Treasurer of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a Trustee of Earlham College, as well as editor and publisher of the monthly temperance journal, Our Union. She died in Philadelphia in 1908.

Mary G. Charlton Edholm American reformer and journalist

Mary G. Charlton Edholm was an American reformer and journalist. She worked as a journalist for twenty years. Edholm was appointed World's Superintendent of Press work, at the Boston Convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1891. Much of her work was along Christian, temperance and philanthropic lines. For many years, her work averaged 250 columns of original matter, in which every phase of the labors of the WCTU was depicted in thousands of papers in the English-speaking world.

Mary Allen West American journalist, editor, educator, superintendent of schools, temperance worker

Mary Allen West was an American journalist, editor, educator, philanthropist, superintendent of schools, and temperance worker. A teacher in her early career, she served as superintendent of schools in Knox County, Illinois, being one of the first women to fill such a position in Illinois. An active supporter of the temperance movement, West served as president of the Illinois Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and editor of the national paper, Union Signal. Her other roles within the WCTU included superintendent of the Training School for Temperance Workers, Illinois State Superintendent of Temperance in Schools of Higher Education, as well as Stockholder, Director, and Secretary of the Woman's Publication Association. She was the first president of the Illinois Woman's Press Association, member of the Chicago Woman's Club, director of the Protective Agency for Women and Children. West was the author of Childhood: Its Care and Culture (1892). She died in Japan while training temperance workers in organization and promotion reform efforts.

Caroline Brown Buell American activist

Caroline Brown Buell was an American activist who lectured and wrote on behalf of temperance and suffrage. She served as the assistant recording secretary (1878–80), corresponding secretary (1880–93), and a member of the Our Union publication committee (1876–83) of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU); as well as the president (1904) and corresponding secretary (1875–86) of the Connecticut WCTU. She also originated the plan of the Loyal Temperance Legion, the children's society of the WCTU. Buell wrote extensively for temperance publications, and other papers and magazines. She made her home in East Hampton, Connecticut.

Mary Brayton Woodbridge American social reformer, editor

Mary Brayton Woodbridge was an American temperance reformer and editor. She was the first president of the local temperance union of her home town at Ravenna; then for years, president of her state, Ohio; and in 1878, she was chosen recording secretary of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Upon the resignation of Judith Ellen Foster at the National WCTU convention in St. Louis, in October, 1884, Woodbridge was unanimously chosen national superintendent of the department of legislation and petitions. In addition to this public effort, and official duties, Woodbridge edited on a weekly basis several columns of the Commonwealth, a temperance paper. She also edited the Amendment Herald, which, under her leadership, attained a weekly circulation of 100,000 copies.

Lepha Eliza Bailey American author, lecturer, prohibitionist

Lepha Eliza Bailey was an American author, lecturer, and social reformer.

Elizabeth W. Greenwood American social reformer (1849-1922)

Elizabeth Ward Greenwood was an American social reformer in the temperance movement, and evangelist in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Susan Hammond Barney American evangelist, writer

Susan Hammond Barney, known as "The Prisoner's Friend", was an American evangelist.

Frances Julia Barnes American temperance reformer

Frances Julia Barnes was an American temperance reformer. She served as General Secretary of the Young Woman's Branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

Emily Pitts Stevens American educator, activist, writer, publisher

Emily Pitts Stevens was an American educator, temperance activist, and early San Francisco suffragist. She was the editor and publisher of The Pioneer, the first women’s suffrage journal in the West Coast of the United States, and was a co-founder of the California Woman Suffrage Association. In addition, she was a businesswoman, teacher, administrator, lecturer, and a founder of women's organizations.

Eliza Buckley Ingalls American temperance activist

Eliza Buckley Ingalls was an American temperance activist. Active in local and national activities of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), for twenty-seven years (1891-1918), Ingalls served as president of the federated white ribbon unions of St. Louis; and for twenty years, as superintendent of the national union's Anti-Narcotics Department.

Margaret E. Winslow (1836-1936) was an American activist, newspaper editor, and author of several temperance books. She served at two separate times, and during the longest period of any editor-in-chief of Our Union, the national organ of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). It was a burst of inspiration from Winslow, relative to its simplicity and purity, which at the National WCTU Convention in Chicago determined the union to wear the white ribbon as a badge rather than the red, white, and blue which was strongly urged by many.

Alice Sudduth Byerly was an American temperance philanthropist. For several years, she was National Superintendent of the Flower Mission Department of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

Cordelia Throop Cole American social reformer, writer, managing editor

Cordelia Throop Cole was an American social reformer, who lectured, wrote, and edited on behalf the temperance crusade and social purity movement. She made valuable contributions with her writing to the work of temperance and social purity, and frequently addressed large audiences on these subjects. She took a most conspicuous part in the temperance crusade of her state, riding many miles on her lecture trips, and sometimes holding three or four meetings at different locations within a day. In 1885, she was made the Iowa superintendent of the "White Shield and White Cross" work of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). She was one of the managing editors of the Dial of Progress of Mount Pleasant.

Esther Housh American social reformer, author, editor

Esther Housh was an American social reformer, author, and newspaper editor. While serving as national press superintendent of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), she instituted the National Bulletin. She was the editor of The Woman's Magazine, as well as the author of many temperance leaflets, and poems.


  1. Chapin 1895, p. 97.
  2. 1 2 L. A. Williams & Company 1882, p. 252.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Duke & Braden 1892, p. 405.
  4. 1 2 Willard & Livermore 1893, p. 160.
  5. 1 2 Duncan 1921, p. 6.
  6. 1 2 Duncan 1921, p. 7.
  7. 1 2 3 Kleber 2015, p. 162.
  8. Duncan 1921, p. 9.
  9. Duncan 1921, p. 16.
  10. Duncan 1921, p. 20.
  11. Griswold 2016, p. 114.
  12. Duncan 1921, pp. 21–26.
  13. Duncan 1921, p. 27.
  14. Duncan 1921, p. 28.
  15. Duncan 1921, p. 41.
  16. Duncan 1921, pp. 43-45.
  17. 1 2 Applegate 2014, p. 106.
  18. 1 2 Willard & Livermore 1893, p. 161.