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Caroline Hazard

Caroline Hazard (1856-1945) was the second child and first daughter of Peace Dale Mill owner Rowland Hazard (1829-1898) and Margaret Anna Rood (1834-1895). Caroline grew up with all the privilege that her prominent family could afford – private tutors, European vacations, and a house full of servants. But one thing she could not have was a college education, making do instead with private instruction from a Brown University professor. A talented painter, writer, and musician, she floundered in ill health through her teens and twenties until she took up writing. Her first volume, a memoir of her Brown teacher, J. Lewis Diman, was published by Houghton Mifflin and Co. in 1886. Several books followed, and in 1899 she was suggested as a candidate for the presidency of Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Despite initial reluctance, she took the job, summoning all of her social connections and her strong work ethic to transform the campus of the women's college with new buildings, faculty, and programs over her 11-year tenure.

When The Weaver was dedicated in October 1920, Caroline Hazard was 64 years old. Her most famous public role, as Wellesley president, was a decade behind her. Her contributions to the communities of Wakefield and Peace Dale, her national philanthropy, her writings and her artwork formed a solid basis of accomplishment. In Peace Dale, she was carrying on her mother's legacy by funding Stepping Stone kindergarten; she remained active in the church founded by her father, Peace Dale Congregational; and she supported cultural activities such as lectures, plays, and musicales. Just the previous year she had founded South County Cottage Hospital, a sorely needed institution that with her financial support opened in a house on Kenyon Avenue in Wakefield. At a time when many women for her social class confined their activities to garden parties and bridge socials, Miss Hazard continued to be a dynamic public presence in the community. And at an age when she would be forgiven for “taking it easy,” she fought to remain physically vigorous and mentally creative. Indeed, much living lay ahead of her – in the coming decades she would write or edit 16 books, write a weekly column for the Providence Evening Bulletin, become the driving force behind preservation of the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace in North Kingstown, and donate the Elizabeth Barrett-Robert Browning love letters to Wellesley. She also continued to sketch and paint watercolors at least until 1943, two years before her death at age 88.

But in 1920, she was looking back, not ahead. She had lost both of her beloved brothers in quick succession – Frederick in 1917 and Rowland Gibson a year later. Their death forced the sale of the Peace Dale Mill to the M.T. Stevens & Sons Co., in May 1918. It also prompted Caroline and her siblings to petition the courts to break their father's trust and distribute the $75,000 balance among the daughters. She quickly became focused on honoring the brothers who had been loyal and loving to her and the father whom she still mourned, 22 years after his passing. In the fall of 1918, she worked with the editor of Appleton Cyclopedia to arrange entries about the three Hazard men. After that she turned her attention to a more lasting tribute: a monument by the preeminent sculptor of the day, Daniel Chester French.

In her dedicatory speech on Oct. 23, 1920, Caroline Hazard revealed that she had been thinking of such a memorial to their father as early as 1906 and wrote to her brother Rowland about it, who declared it should be his “first votive offering to Peace Dale.” (1) Why it did not come to be then is a mystery. But the metaphor of the weaver appealed to her, both because of the village's manufacturing history and how her father “took all of the elements of life and wove them into a serene and blessed whole.” She wrote the inscription, “Life Spins the Thread Time Weaves the Pattern God Designed the Fabric of the Stuff He Leaves to Men of Noble Mind.” In her version, however, there is punctuation, a semi-colon separating “weaves” from “the pattern” and “designed” from “the fabric,” thus: Life spins the thread Time weaves; the/pattern God designed;/The fabric of the stuff He leaves to men of noble mind.” The punctuation obfuscates the meaning. If Time is weaving, is it not weaving the Pattern God designed? The semi-colons separate out “the pattern God designed” but it is not clear whether she means simply God designed the pattern, or life is spinning the pattern God designed. Without the punctuation, the reader naturally puts the punctuation in different places: "Life spins the thread/time weaves the pattern/God designed the fabric of the stuff He leaves to men of noble mind.”

The dedication was an important day for both Caroline Hazard and the village of Peace Dale, and her handwritten invitation list – found in a notebook at the University of Rhode Island's Special Collections – demonstrates the importance she placed upon it. Among the luminaries she invited were Miss K.L. (Katharine Lee) Bates, the author of “America the Beautiful” and her close friend; Ellen Day Hale of Gloucester, Mass., daughter of Edward Everett Hale; and the Solvay family of Brussels, Belgium, with whom her father had formed an alliance to open the Solvay Process Co. in Syracuse, N.Y. (2) Many of these invitations were ceremonial in nature – we doubt she expected the Solvays to travel from Europe or her Santa Barbara friends to journey cross-country for the occasion.

Caroline Hazard clearly enjoyed a warm relationship with Daniel Chester French. On Oct. 13, 1920, he wrote to reassure her that Henry Bacon, the monument's architect, would be in town that week to supervise grading of the site, and added, “If Mr. Bacon cannot go to Peace Dale this week, I will come over Saturday, and indeed, if it would conduce to your peace of mind, I will come anyway. I am yours to command.” (3) He wrote to her in January 1921 to thank her for the Christmas remembrance (probably a copy of the Weaver memorial booklet). (4)

(1) Hazard, Caroline. Draft Introduction. Caroline Hazard Papers, 1871-1939, Mss. Gr. 7, University of Rhode Island Library.

(2) Hazard, Caroline. Notebook. Caroline Hazard Papers, 1871-1939, Mss. Gr. 7, University of Rhode Island Library.

(3) French, Daniel Chester. Letter to Caroline Hazard, 13 October 1920. Caroline Hazard Papers, 1871-1939, Mss. Gr. 7, University of Rhode Island Library.

(4) French, Daniel Chester. Postcard, 18 January 1921. He also sent an announcement of his daughter's wedding in Italy, on January 10, 1921. Caroline Hazard Papers, 1871-1939, Mss. Gr. 7, University of Rhode Island Library.

Betty J. Cotter