Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell by
Joan Waugh, published by Harvard University Press in 1999 celebrates
the sister of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who died in the Civil
War. Josephine's husband, Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., also died
a hero in battle, never seeing their daughter Carlotta who died
one month before his death.
His widow, who always wore black for the rest of her life, went
back to the family on Staten Island where she had been married
in the Unitarian Church. Her lifelong Unitarian faith was decisively
manifest in her career of fostering organized philanthropy and
government service. She began her day and night labor helping
to establish schools for black children in the South. On being
appointed by Governor Tilden she became the first woman commissioner
of the New York State Board of Charities, lobbying and legislating
on behalf of the poor.
Her biographer says that a belief in a just and human God permeated
her work of national urban reform, the unionization of labor,
and being a leader of the Anti-imperialist League of New York
opposing both the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars.
Though she suffered attacks and condemnation, she became the founder
of the New York City's Charity Organization Society and was a
national exemplar and interpreter of the social reform movement
Public recognition of her achievement came shortly after her death.
The Fountain Terrace of Bryant Park of the New York Public Library
displays the pink granite Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain, the
city's first public memorial dedicated to a woman.