York Town Square

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York, Pa.’s, Shinah Etting: ‘The life of all the gaiety that could be mustered in the village’

A visitor to York, Pa., in 1773 admired Shinah Etting, young matriarch of what is believed to be York’s first Jewish family. The Ettings operated a small store in York. Shinah Etting, pictured here, later re-located her family to Baltimore. JCC rooftop playground: ‘Neatest place in town’ and Who were York County’s most influential citizens? and A short test of your York County women’s history knowledge.

Alexander Graydon, studying law in York in the summer of 1773, believed that the town lacked hospitality.
That is, except in the home of Elijah and Shinah Etting.
“Those who have known York . . . cannot fail to recollect the sprightly and engaging Mrs. E., the life of all the gaiety that could be mustered in the village,” he wrote, “always in spirits, full of frolic and glee, and possessing the talent of singing agreeably… .”
Thanks to Alexander Graydon, Shinah Etting is perhaps the most prominent York County woman remembered by history from the pre-Revolutionary War era.
And she’s the starting point of a new presentation I’m doing about women achievers from York County’s past… .

The very hospitable members of the Spring Grove Women’s Club were the recipients of my first presentation on that topic.
They were gracious as I stumbled through this initial showing.
For some time, I’ve wanted to put together such a presentation because many of the groups I’ve spoken to are women’s organizations.
In fact, I find women’s groups very receptive and inquisitive about historical topics, perhaps even more so than groups of guys.
So, with the Spring Grove date approaching, I finally developed such a program.
Here are several points I make in the presentation:
– Up to the past 25 years, local historians did not thoroughly dig out the accomplishments of women. The big histories of a century or more ago – Prowell’s and Gibson’s – focused primarily on what the guys accomplished.
– War often hoisted the achievements of women to the public platform. The Ladies Aid Society, organized at the outset of the Civil War, elevated the accomplishments of women in York and Hanover on the public record.
– AAUW’s book “Legacies,” from the 1980s, helpfully pools achieving York-area women into one place. It also shows that opportunities for women outside the home through the first part of the 20th century came via nursing, teaching, library work, writers (particularly of children’s literature) and volunteer social service work at the YWCA and other such agencies.
We can thank Shinah Etting for making Alexander Graydon’s six months in York so memorable that he put his experiences in writing. His writing about his stay gives insight into York County in the 1770s.
Shinah Etting’s husband died, but her story has a happy ending.
The mother of eight relocated to Baltimore, where her family gained a spot on a short list of the city’s most influential and respected.
Also of interest:
All Women’s history posts from the start.
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square post on Google.