Forgotten Women of History Friday: Lulu Marie Sayer

As this blog has evolved and grown over the past couple of months, I’ve tried to consolidate all of my genealogical-type posts in one place, here at The Hipster Historian. One of these types of posts was my feminist-centered blog on Tumblr called Forgotten Women of History, which I am reviving here at The Hipster Historian.  You can check out a former post about Philena Mae Fairbanks here.

Forgotten Women of History

Today we are bringing you the story of Lulu Marie Sayer.

Lulu Marie Sayer

Lulu Marie Sayer (1892 – 1968) ~~ The Mother Who Abandoned Her Child

It is hard to imagine that any mother would ever abandon their child, but in the time before reproductive rights for women, this was very common for many reasons. It was during this troubled time of rights for women, just a year before the 19th amendment was passed that a young mother by the name of Lulu Marie had a child in the city of Rome in upstate New York.

Ms. Sayer had already give been birth two children to her first husband, Arthur J. Tanner before he died in October 1917 from a freak accident after being hit by a passenger train, breaking his leg. Only being married seven years, Lulu was widowed at age 25 with two small children in the early 20th century where she had no rights.

Working in Rome while she tried to figure out how to support her small family, Lulu became pregnant by an unnamed man, the only clue we have is the newspaper clippings at the time. The authorities had identified him (through Lulu) as a man residing in Whitesboro, New York.

At this time we will never know if the child produced from this meeting was one of consent or not, but during the early 1900′s rape was not widely reported due to the stigma in our culture.

After she became pregnant with her son, Lulu gave birth to him in May of 1919 and left him at the House of the Good Shepherd in Utica, New York at their home on 1700 Genesee Street.

The young boy remained there until Lulu came back for him after she married her second husband, Theodore D. Spencer on the 24th of September of 1919.

After she brought back the infant back home the story complicates a tad – depending on who you talked to, it certainly made headlines in the Syracuse Post-Standard.


Lulu was quoted by the Watertown Daily Times in 1919  as saying that she loved the baby, but that her new husband, Theodore would not accept another man’s baby around, even though he accepted her as his wife. She insisted that she had told her husband everything about the origins.

Theodore has another story to tell. According to the report from the Daily Times, Theodore told authorities that Lulu was lying and he assumed the child to be from an illegitimate union of one of his new bride’s sisters.

Either way, it went, the couple decided to get rid of the infant in the best way they could deem possible – by leaving him in the woods near Parish, New York, hoping the child would be found by someone willing to take care of it.

Luckily, to hunters in the area found the baby boy and were able to take him to get greatly needed medical care. The only reason they were able to identify Lulu as the mother was a hand embroidered handkerchief left with the child.

What would have happened at any other time in history? It is hard to really say, but one thing is for certain – the rights that Lulu possessed not only to be in charge of her reproductive choices and what to do when faced when faced with what seems like an insurmountable problem was challenged.

Back in the day, we didn’t have anything like Planned Parenthood or access to birth control, which would have helped Lulu. I greatly encourage all of you to support reproductive rights by donating to Planned Parenthood and click here.
Sources Cited:

  • Year: 1900; Census Place: Richland, Oswego, New York; Roll: 1144; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0141; FHL microfilm: 1241144
  • Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
  • Spencer Couple Who Abandoned Baby Say They Didn’t Want Tiny Thing to Die. (1919, November 13). Syracuse Post-Standard, p. 1.

Forgotten Women of History

I’m a sucker for history, especially history that focuses on women. Generally speaking, women have not had it easy for most, if not all of our written and recorded history. I’ve always wondered about the stories of the women behind the Roman generals or the grandmother of famous painters. Who were they and what made them tick. And, this is why I’ve created the historical narrative writing project called: Forgotten Women of History.

Forgotten Women of History

Forgotten Women of History or FWOH for short is a blog dedicated to these women. Whether it is your grandmother who became the first female sheriff in rural Arkansas like Thelma Jewel Sanders or Lulu Marie Sayer, your great aunt who abandoned her child in the forest on commands from her new husband, FWOH is telling all the stories of these women.

One the favorite stories I’ve come across while researching genealogy has been that of Philena Mae Fairbanks who was generally considered a beautiful young woman at the turn of the 20th century (see picture below). So much so, that her new husband became jealous of her beauty and locked her in their home while he was away on business trips. As the years progressed and they had more children (eight to be exact), her husband became more and more verbally and emotionally violent. Philena knew what might happen next and told her husband “If you ever hit me, I will get a divorce.”

Philena Mae Fairbanks

This sorry excuse for a man didn’t listen and gave Philena a black eye after being angry about something or another. Philena went straight to the judge and demanded an immediate divorce from her abuser, which was granted. The story goes on to say that she told one of her daughters that by the time she died she would have a diamond ring for every finger on her left hand for all the travails she had to endure in her life. And wouldn’t you know it, by the time she passed away she had four big diamond rings she had purchased herself.

Forgotten Women of History Banner

Since launching this project late last fall, I’ve been able to write about the lives of several women, but I don’t want to stop there. Here is where you come in. I want to write about your grandmother who entered STEM fields in the early 1900’s or your great-great-great aunt who traveled around the world in search for a better life.

Since launching this project late last fall, I’ve been able to write about the lives of several women, but I don’t want to stop there. Here is where you come in. I want to write about your grandmother who entered STEM fields in the early 1900’s or your great-great-great aunt who traveled around the world in search for a better life.

If you are interested in me telling your families stories, send an email to  thehipsterhistorian (at) gmail (dot) com


  1. Only females and female-identified individuals will be considered for FWOH.
  2.  This individual must no longer be living. This is important as we do not want to invade the privacy of any living individuals without consent.
  3.  Stories need to be kept to around 1800 words (at max). The more citations and information you can provide, the easier the editing process will be.
  4. The more pictures and records you have available, the better.


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