Celebrate Women's History Month by learning more about a woman important to Worthington and central Ohio history.
Throughout March, you'll find photos, correspondence and more related to Mary Johnson Sessions at Worthington Memory at worthingtonmemory.org, the library's local history website.
Mary was born in 1823, the only surviving child of Orange and Achsa (Maynard) Johnson.
Orange was one of Worthington's first settlers and his comb-making business made him quite wealthy.
His daughter attended the Worthington Female Seminary, a school for women training as teachers.
Her report card dating from when she was about 19 years old gave her a "93" in "scholarship," a "97" in "general deportment" and only 2.5 demerits.
Much of what we know about Mary comes from a multitude of surviving letters, written both to and by her. She received a number of letters from courters, and her replies were often paragons of tact. In an Aug. 10, 1843, letter to a "Mr. Blank," she deflects romantic overtures by responding, "I have reflected long and seriously and am fully convinced I entertain feelings of no other character than pure friendship and friendship only."
Mary appeared to have a close relationship with her mother, sharing her emotions and experiences in numerous letters. In an Aug. 23, 1847, letter to Achsa from Niagara Falls, where she was honeymooning, she described her "varied emotions" ranging from happiness at being with her beloved, Frank (Francis Sessions), to her sadness at journeying away from home. She reported she found Cleveland to be "a beautiful place" and that the beauty of Niagara Falls moved her to a "light and happy heart."
Mary appreciated the arts, and she and her husband amassed quite a collection of art in their travels.
In addition to being a successful dry-goods merchant and the founder and president of the Commercial National Bank, Francis Sessions was an enthusiastic patron. He and Mary supported art and art instruction in central Ohio, and their pieces formed the basis of the Columbus Museum of Art's collection.
For insight into 19th-century life by way of Mary's firsthand experiences, peruse her many letters at worthingtonmemory.org.
Meredith Southard is an adult services librarian for Worthington Libraries.