One of the wonderful things about digging into history is that you uncover some pretty special people, who for some reason or another, never really got the recognition they deserved. Some are almost completely forgotten.
In Schenectady, one of those people is Harriet Leonard Colburn, a Chicago native who spent much of her adult life - the first three decades of the 20th century - living in Schenectady. Harriet was a mover and a shaker, a go-getter, an organizer. She was a suffragette and the founder of the Schenectady County Women Republican Women's Club and the "Schenectada" Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution before passing away in 1931 at the age of 75.
I "uncovered" and discovered Harriet Leonard Colburn because Darlene Lee did all the digging, beginning a few years back. Lee was the president of the Schenectady County Republican Woman's Club and is currently a member of the Saratoga County group as well as being a member of the state and national Federation of Republican Women.
Lee will make a short presentation Friday morning at 11 a.m. when a historic marker honoring Colburn will be unveiled at 1418 Union St., - her former home - by the local chapter of the DAR and its chapter historian Kim Mabee. Nancy Zwetsch, State DAR Regent, and Schenectady Mayor Gary B. McCarthy are expected to be in attendance.
"Not all the organizations she organized or participated in still survive today, but the work she did as a director of women's clubs played an important role in unifying a nation of women in anticipation of the women getting the right to vote," said Lee. "By the time she moved to Schenectady she was an accomplished pianist, entertainer, composer and more. Once she settled here she wasted no time seemingly organizing and being a part of everything."
Colburn founded the Schenectady's DAR Chapter in her own home, and was also one of the founders of the Schenectady County Historical Society.
"We are so grateful that the account of the DAR founding is preserved at the historical society," said Lee. "Good thing she went on to help organize that, too. The work she did during the 30 years she spent in Schenectady lives on today and is enjoyed by so many, yet very few know her name. When you get to know her, you realize that her story deserves to be told and retold."
Because of Darlene Lee's hard work and that of the local DAR members, Colburn - her friends called her Hattie - will now long be remembered.
GE Realty Plot Tour
City historian Chris Leonard will give a walking tour of the GE Realty Plot Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m.-noon.
Also a resident of the Realty Plot, Leonard will cover the dynamic events and unique cast of characters who have called the neighborhood their home, including GE scientists Charles Steinmetz, Ernst Alexanderson and Irving Langmuir.
The tour meets at Steinmetz Memorial Park near the Unitarian church on Wendell Avenue. Cost is $20 per person, which includes entry into one of the homes and a 15-minute break, with snacks, on its large front porch. For more information call (518) 225-2924 or visit GE Realty Plot Walking Tours on Facebook. Proceeds from the event go to the Schenectady County Historical Society and the Office of the City Historian of Schenectady.