4 Sep
2012

Pittsburgh’s Jane Cuddy remembered

Joan Gundersen discovers footnotes in history in 1920s Pittsburgh…in the September 2012 issue of Timelines.

A while ago, I was skimming through diocesan news magazines from the 1920s when I noticed that there were three separate notices in the Pittsburgh Church News for the death of Jane Cuddy on November 8, 1926. There was a full page notice on page 2, a two paragraph “In Memoriam” on page 7 by the Women’s Auxiliary (foremother of the ECW), and on page 11, the “Bishop’s Page” was a three paragraph comment on her death.

This was more attention than the passing of long-serving clergy of the diocese received, and more coverage than the death of the long-time leader of the National Women’s Auxiliary, Julia Emery received.  So who was Jane Cuddy, and why did Pittsburgh lavish so much attention on her passing?

The short Women’s Auxiliary memoir characterized her as a “quietly faithful and devoted church woman, loving the missionary work of her Church above everything” who had furthered that work by serving for a long time as diocesan UTO treasurer.  Typical of statements that might be made about many women who held an office in the diocesan or parish Woman’s Auxiliary, the Auxiliary’s “In Memoriam” does not explain the outpouring of tributes in Pittsburgh.  But as the other articles reveal, Jane Cuddy’s work went beyond the usual women’s organizations.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1853 and a life-long Episcopalian, Jane Cuddy was valedictorian of her high school class and taught school for several years. Like many professional women of her generation, Jane Cuddy never married, and the diocese became her family. In 1891 she became Bishop Whitehead’s secretary and served in that role until his death in 1922.

Cuddy continued on staff under Bishop Mann, but not as secretary.  In fact, for much of those thirty-five years, she was the entire office staff for the diocese.  Apparently Cuddy was able to bridge the generation gap, for the longest memoir, the one written by a member of Bishop Mann’s staff, stressed her ability to work well with a younger generation of church workers.

While secretary Cuddy also accumulated other duties, including the previously mentioned role with the diocesan United Thank Offering and serving as Custodian and Treasurer for the diocesan Prayer Book Society.  She also managed the subscription lists, editorial work and publication details for the Church News, and served as correspondent for the diocese to the general Church papers.

Thus she was responsible for most of the public relations activities of the diocese, served as the gatekeeper to Bishop Whitehead, and was trusted with important endowment funds at a time when men dominated the financial life of the city and diocese.

However, if by chance one had missed the November issue of Church News that contained the three tributes, it would be possible to completely overlook Cuddy’s thirty-five years of major contributions to the work of the diocese.  The diocesan magazine did not print publication information.  Thus, her name never appeared as editor or publication manager during the many years she served in those roles.  Her reports to convention as treasurer of two major funds were signed only by initials.

In fact, as the office staff, she probably compiled and prepared the entire convention journal; certainly she pulled together all the parochial reports and individual reports from diocesan organizations and institutions which were included in the publication.

Jane Cuddy’s life is a reminder that much of women’s church work was done in administrative settings as the support staff that made everything work. In such a role, a woman could be very well-known in the diocese, but almost invisible to later scholars because her job was literally and purposefully behind the scenes.

Who was the Jane Cuddy in your diocese or parish?

–Joan Rezner Gundersen, Ph.D., is the 2012 recipient of the Adelaide Teague Case Award and has been involved with EWHP since 1982, currently serving on the Board and as EWHP’s Webster.

1 Comment

  • Thanks, Jo-Ann. The committee merembs who worked on the survey and profile put their heart and soul into it. I’m sure they will appreciate your comments I know I do.

So, what do you think?