Catharine Paine Blaine
A resident of Seneca Falls, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and educated at the town’s Seneca Falls Academy, Blaine was 18 when she added her signature to the Declaration of Sentiments. Born in Amenia, Dutchess County, New York in December, 1829, Paine came from a family of two older sisters and two younger brothers. Her parents, Thomas and Louisa Paine, moved the family to Seneca Falls when Catharine was quite young. Many water-driven factories on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, a feeder to the Erie Canal, produced cloth, flour, gin, pumps, candles and other products in Seneca Falls and Waterloo. In 1839, Thomas Paine started Paine-Caldwell Pump Manufacturing Company with a partner; he later manufactured tallow and soap. In 1850, Thomas Paine held $2000 in real estate; by 1860, he had amassed a real estate value of $10,000.
Little is known about Catharine Paine’s other activities in Seneca Falls, or her reasons for signing the Declaration of Sentiments. She attended religious camp meetings and may have taught “Sabbath School” in Seneca Falls, qualifying her for later teaching positions. In her diary, she described reading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and expressed her opposition to slavery. Her firm disagreement with the institution of slavery may have drawn her to hear Lucretia Mott and other anti-slavery reformers. Possibly she accompanied her abolitionist father, Thomas Paine, or her mother, a convert to the Methodist Episcopal Church, a reform congregation in Seneca Falls. Thomas Paine participated in the abolitionist meetings in the Seneca Falls area including the meeting where the Garrisonian abolitionist Abby Kelly spoke in Ansel Bascom’s orchard in August 1843. In 1850 he also signed an abolitionist petition sent from Seneca Falls dated May 7, 1850. In the Blaine home were reform newspapers including the New York Tribune, National Anti-Slavery Standard, Advent of Moral Reform, Advent Harbinger and Genesee Farmer that likely influenced Catharine as well.1
In the years after the First Women’s Rights Convention, Paine adopted the so-called "Bloomer Costume" advocated by Amelia Bloomer, another Seneca Falls resident. The Bloomer Costume consisted of wide “Turkish pantaloons” topped by a knee length dress. This facilitated movement but shocked many who saw it as unfeminine. In a letter to David Blaine shortly before their marriage, and move to Oregon Territory, (Washington became a separate Territory from Oregon on March 2, 1853), Paine sought his opinion on “exchang[ing] my present convenient dress for long skirts….In that new country we can hardly suppose that the same degree of odium attaches to it there as here and I think it will commend itself to the inhabitants.”2
David Blaine, educated at Seneca Falls Academy, Waterloo Academy, Hamilton College and Auburn Theological Seminary, in Auburn, New York, was the eldest son of John and Martha Blaine. The Blaines were farmers and innkeepers with real estate holdings worth $23,470 in 1850. Blaine’s brother Saron worked on the farm with his father. Younger siblings from both families attended the Seneca Falls Academy in 1853.
Blaine had converted to Methodism as had Paine. Their correspondence, begun in January, 1852, led to a courtship of discovery of shared religious beliefs and desires to work in the missionary field. Shortly after their marriage in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls, Blaine entered the ministry in August, 1853. While Paine preferred work in Africa or Asia, the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church promptly assigned the newly-wedded couple to a ten year appointment to the Oregon Methodist Conference. On their arrival, David and Catharine were posted to Seattle in Washington Territory.
The Blaines’ letters home, saved by their relatives, offer an extraordinary glimpse into ties between central New York and newly settled areas of the Pacific Northwest. Between 1849 and 1862, the letters documented courtship and residence in the Pacific Northwest, early territorial legislative sessions, church-building, educational efforts, and the glimmerings of the impending Civil War. Thanks to the foresight of their families, the Blaine letters provide evidence that Catharine Paine Blaine carried reform beliefs with her throughout her life, endeavoring to use her work and her influence to change society for the better.