Bridget Lane, Only Woman to Hold the Position of Postmistress in Summit History

by Arthur Cotterell

In the long history of the Summit Post Office there has been only one woman to hold the leadership position of postmistress, Bridget Lane serving two terms in the late 1800's. The Federal government established the post office in Summit on November 20, 1843, thereby unofficially recognizing Summit as a community although it was not to become one until 1869. Up to its establishment as a township, the area had been known informally as "The Summit" from 1810 on. The first postmaster had been William Littell, who operated the post office out of his store on Union Place.

Patrick and Bridget Lane, both of whom were school teachers in Nashua, New Hamp- shire, moved to Summit in 1871 with their two sons. Bridget opened a notions business in a small building at Union Place and Keithock Place (later Beechwood Road). In October of 1886, President Grover Cleveland appointed Mrs. Lane to the position of postmistress for the Township of Summit. The appointment of Mrs. Lane, replacing Theodore Littell, son of the first postmaster, generated a storm of protest. However, the protest was not over the fact that she was a Democrat, but rather, that she was a woman. She would remain the first and the only woman to hold the position in Summit.

Mrs. Lane moved the post office from the Littell Building to the small building in which she conducted her notions business. While there was considerable opposition initially to her appointment she soon won over the support of the community. According to an article written in the Summit Herald and Record fifty years later "Mrs. Lane's quiet, sincere nature, coupled with the faithful discharge of her duties in the management of the office soon won for her the universal support and respect of the community." And if you are wondering how Mrs. Lane was able to conduct post office business as well as her notion business in a small building, be aware that the total receipts for the post office in 1887 was $4,319.

Mrs. Lane served a total of slightly more than eight years in two terms in the position. The interesting thing is that the terms were not consecutive. In an era in which appointments were made according to your political affiliation she was replaced 1891 and reappointed again in 1894. In a period of history from 1861 until 1913 the Presidency was controlled by the Republican party for all but the two terms of Grover Cleveland, who was elected in 1884, defeated by Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and elected again in 1892. Since Cleveland's terms were not consecutive, Mrs. Lane's terms were also split, since she was appointed both times by President Cleveland.

Like the community itself, the volume of business of the post office was growing at a rapid pace. Soon the small store would no longer serve adequately the postal business of the community. In 1895 a handsome new home for the post office was erected on the corner of Springfield Avenue and Maple Street (then known as Highland Avenue). This would be better known to later Summit residents as the Roots building.

As political fortunes changed so too would Mrs. Lane's position. She was replaced by President McKinley, a Republican, in 1898, after McKinley replaced Cleveland as President. All told Mrs. Lane had served the community of Summit for just over eight years, from October, 1886 to February, 1891, and from March, 1894, to March, 1898. Early writings had identified her as the first woman to hold the position in the United States, which was later proven to be untrue. There had been several women who had served in the position earlier, the first known to be a woman in Baltimore in 1782. However, she was the first (and only) woman to hold the position of postmistress in Summit. And, according to all reports, she did it well

Bridget Lane died on May 1, 1925, at the age of 79. Two of her sons also left their marks on Summit history. Alfred was the opinionated and hard-hitting editor of the Summit Record, and John was a prominent Democratic leader in the community who was instrumental in helping to organize the volunteer fire department in 1891.