Dorchester Illustration of the Day no. 2072
Mrs. Emily A. Fifield was born inWeymouthon Feb. 12,1840, welcomed by her parents Mr. & Mrs. Thomas B. Porter. Mr. Porter was a lumber dealer in the town and had wharfs on theMonatiquotRiverwhich passes out into the sea belowQuincy.
Emily Porter was a sober, quiet little girl who had a sensible mind, gentle behavior and kind heart. Her parents realized thatWeymouthcould not offer all the education they desired for their children and Emily at fifteen was sent intoBostonto a fine school kept by William B. Fowle.
Coming out of school before her eighteenth birthday she was betrothed to her life long boyfriend William Cranch Bond Fifield, who was ten years older, and they were married on May 31 1858. William was from a family who lived near the Porters onFront Street. His father was Dr. Noah Fifield, aWeymouthphysician beloved the state over. William Fifield had traveled to Europe to be educated and when he came home fromEnglandwith the diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons inLondon, he married Emily almost at once. They found a house inDorchesterand lived there for 50 years. They had three children Mary; George (died in infancy) and Charles a wonderfully gifted boy who died inDorchesterin 1877.
William was invited to become a member of the staff of theNew CityHospitaland was connected to that institution for 18 years. In those days William drove into the hospital over the Avenue by horseback. The doctor and the hospital kept a horse always ready to send out toDorchesterwhen there was an emergency.
They were of cultivated refined instincts. Both Emily and William were fond of music. William played well on the violin and they associated with other musical people. They were constant attendants every winter at all the great concerts and oratories in “Bostonand regular attendees at the Symphony. They knew and discussed the best literature, were familiar with the best poetry and the best art. They were what are called “bookish” people and their circle of friends was of similar tastes. William’s mother, the elder Mrs. Fifield was the daughter of Prof. William Bond the founder of the astronomical observatory inCambridgeand she could compute and chart from the observations taken by her father Prof George Bond.
Emily was a member of the Boston School Committee from 1884 -1900 and the second woman elected to membership in that body. The success of theMechanicArtsSchoolwas largely due to her services in behalf while she was chairman. Another achievement was her work in the educational exhibit sent fromBostonto the Chicago World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exhibition. The exhibit gaveBostonthe reputation as a leader in educational matters, a reputation that was communicated throughout the civilized world.
She was interested in religious and philanthropic enterprises especially inDorchesterwhere she lived during the greater part of her more active life.
After William died in 1896, Emily actively continued her projects until she died in her home in 1913 at 74 years of age. There was a large attendance of friends at the funeral services for Emily at theFirstParishChurch, Meeting House Hill, among them manyBostonschool teacher members of the American Unitarian Association. As a mark of respect the flags on all the schoolhouses in the district were lowered to half staff. The officiating ministers were Rev. Roger S, Forbes, minister of the church and Rev. James De Normandie DD of the First Church in Roxbury.
The honorary pallbearers were members of the National Alliance Board headed by Emma C. Low of BrooklynNew York. The national president was accompanied by Mary Fifield King, Emily’s daughter, and the ushers were members of the National Alliance Board.
She was devoted to the Unitarian cause and to herDorchesterchurch. She dearly loved the national organizations whose meetings she attended faithfully and with eager interest. Mrs. Fifield’s guiding influence was first felt when she became secretary. She helped to form plans that made the society strong and permanent, and she carefully tended to the organization’s growth, always working to include every part of the country. She worked to make her work national in its scope. She felt equally interested in all parts of the country:PacificCoast, Southern circuit, orGreenHarbor. Always a welcome speaker, she used clear and forceful language to communicate a fuller understanding of the aims and methods of the organization.
Emily combined an unusual degree a large vision, the facility of seeing things in their true relations that enabled her to develop plans with rare wisdom and the habit of painstaking attention to minute details. Her reports were models of clarity. Always young in spirit, possessed of open mind, and demonstrating large sympathies while being guided by the highest ideals, she gave her best in generous loving service.
One of Emily’s activities was her work with The Benevolent Society of theFirstParishChurch. The Society, which was organized in 1861, stated its general purpose in its name. Its definite work is twofold: first, to give deserving women employment in the form of sewing and second to give the garments made by these women and by members of the society to charitable institutions, industrial schools and in response to private appeals.
Sixteen women received sewing assignments through the fall and winter months and nine women through the spring and summer. Each earned $1.50 per month through payment from the Society. The women thus employed were personally known to and visited by the members of the Committee. No one who is not cognizant of the work of the Society can have the slightest idea how valuable to these women was the opportunity of earning money by work which could be done in their own homes and at times when other work was unavailable.
The Society kept both the Dorchester Ward in theNew EnglandHospitaland the Nathaniel Hall room at the Mariners’ Home supplied with bed linens, blankets, towels, etc., as required.
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