“Kittie” Putman and “Minnie” Knapp each came to the Cherry Hill Mansion in Albany, NY after her mother’s death to be raised by Van Rensselaer descendant and 3rd-generation mistress of the estate, Harriet Maria Van Elmendorf.
Both wards, but not quite sisters, Kittie was herself a Van Rensselaer descendant while Minnie was likely descended from Dinah Jackson, an enslaved woman.
Historic Cherry Hill will host “Agency & Identity: Cherry Hill’s Would-Be Sisters,” a lecture comparing the experiences of these two women who came of age during the Gilded Age, with Shawna Reilly and the New York State Museum, set for Thursday, December 1st.
Examining the clothing, photographs, possessions and accounts left behind by the two Gilded Age women, this presentation will explore the lives of “Kittie” and “Minnie” in terms of their plights, identities, relative vulnerabilities, opportunities, and the choices they made within their prescribed social roles.
Shawna Reilly is the Director of Education at Historic Cherry Hill and served as Project Director for the museum’s research, digitization, and education initiative, Historical African American Experiences at Cherry Hill, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2020.
This program, co-sponsored by the New York State Museum, was developed with input from Dr. Robin Campbell, retired Senior Curator for the Bureau of Historic Sites, and Dr. Shannon Draucker, Assistant Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Siena College.
This program will begin at 5:30 pm and will take place at the New York State Museum, located at 222 Madison Avenue, in Albany. For more information visit the Historic Cherry Hill website.
Photo of “Kittie” Putman and “Minnie” Knapp provided.