Long Island Genealogy
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The Booth Family of Long Island
Mary Louise Booth of Yaphank
    Mary Louise Booth was born at Yaphank in 1831.  She was the daughter of the village miller and school teacher.  Mary Booth was a writer, translator and magazine editor. She began to translate French works at a young age and completed about forty in all, including books that were sympathetic to the Union cause, which won praise from Abraham Lincoln. At the same time, Booth wrote her own book, "History of the City of New York" (1859), which won great praise and commercial success. Booth fought for women's rights alongside Susan B. Anthony and served as secretary at the conventions in Saratoga in 1855 and New York City in 1860. She was also an abolitionist. In 1867 Booth was named editor of the Harper Brothers' new magazine, "Harper's Bazar," a family and fashion magazine. Booth combined the skills of a shrewd businesswoman, intuitive knowledge of the tastes of conventional Victorian ladies, and the literary judgment of a writer, making the "Bazar" a great financial success. Booth built a magazine that continued more than a century after her death (although its name was changed to "Bazaar" in 1929).
    She died on March 5, 1899 and was buried in the family Plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery.

Some of her translations were:  About's King of the Mountains; Cousin'sSecret History of the French Court, (1859); Pascal's Lettres Provinciales (Provincial Letters); Gasparin's Uprising of a Great People, (1861), America Before Europe, (1861); Laboulaye's Paris in America, (1865); Cochin's Results of Emancipation, (1862), and Results of Slavery, (1862). She also wrote a comprehensive History of New York, (1861, revised 1880).

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A Home To Harper's Bazaar Editor Mary Booth
Reprinted with permission from The Northport Journal (C) 2004 Long Islander Newspapers
The Long Island, Northport Journal, July 29, 2004

    When it comes to influential figures in 19th century publishing, Long Island can point with pride to several individuals, well known and not so well known.  Huntington has its Walt Whitman. Roslyn has its William Cullen Bryant.  Less well known, however, is the fact that the founding editor of Harper's Bazar was also a Long Islander.  And a woman. Mary L. Booth was one of the most prominent journalists of 19th century America, from the time she took the helm of that publication in 1867 until her death 22 years later.
    Mary Louise Booth, born April 19, 1831 in Yaphank, when it was called Millville, was the daughter of a school principal who encouraged her education in many subjects, including foreign languages (she was fluent in seven languages).
    She was born in a small story-and-a-half house on the north side of the road running east from the post office, a house which is still standing and is the subject of a multi-year restoration effort by the local historically minded residents of the Yaphank area.
    Mary's father, William Booth, was the village miller and schoolteacher, and a direct descendant of the first Booth who came to Southold in 1640. Her mother was a daughter of a refugee of the French Revolution. Her father had a small woolen mill and dye house, which he operated in Yaphank, and also was schoolteacher during the winter months when he taught the few children of the village in a small building. Mary Booth received her early education in Yaphank and when she was 14 years old her family moved to Williamsburgh, where her father opened a school and she assisted him in teaching.
    By the age of 14 she was teaching in her father's school in Brooklyn, and was a New York Times reporter for a time before becoming a translator of French and other languages.
    Among her most important contributions in that area was the translation of works by Blaise Pascal, Victor Cousin, and Count Agenor de Gasparin. She also wrote what was to become recognized as the first history of the city of New York.
    But translation also came in handy for her as she pursued her interest in social issues. An outspoken opponent of slavery, with the outbreak of the Civil War she began a series of translations of French writers of that day who favored the Union cause.
    By the late 1860s Booth's reputation was so high that she was invited to become editor of the new publication Harper's Bazar (later Bazaar) in 1867, and it is said that under her direction the publication became an American institution.
    Mary L. Booth never married – it is said that she fell deeply in love with a young man who was son of a whale ship captain. He sailed for the Arctic when his ship and all on board were lost, prompting her to devote her life to journalism. But over the years of her life – Booth lived to the age of 58, dying in 1889 – she knew everyone who was anyone. President Lincoln, Georges Sand, Winslow Homer, Oliver Wendell Holmes. As the founding editor of Harper's Bazar, she performed a great service to suffrage, according to her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, by 'showing that a woman can...hold for years a place at the head of a profession so difficult and so arduous.'
    Among her achievements? Mary Booth published Louisa May Alcott and Wilkie Collins. At her Manhattan home, she hosted legendary Saturday night salons. And she continued in support of suffrage, serving as secretary of the Women's Rights Congress at Seneca Falls in 1855.
    The birthplace of Mary Louise Booth on Main Street in Yaphank has been donated by a local family to Suffolk County Historic Services, and is being restored in conjunction with the Yaphank Historical Society as a period house museum. Plans are for it to be opened to the public as the next addition to the historic district undergoing restoration at the intersection of Main Street and Yaphank Avenue.

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