Partner Miriam Van Waters
Sunny Hill Plantation, FL 32309, USA
Brookdale Community College, 805 Newman Springs Rd, Lincroft, NJ 07738, Stati Uniti
St James, 4526 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538, Stati Uniti
Geraldine Livingston Morgan Thompson (1872–1967) was an American social reform pioneer who was became known as the "First Lady of New Jersey" due to her philanthropic and social service activities in New Jersey. Thompson owned Brookdale Farm, an 800-acre (320 ha) estate in Red Bank. In her will, Thompson left 206 acres (83 ha) of the estate to Monmouth County for a public park named for the Thompsons. Thompson Park includes the administrative headquarters of the Monmouth County Park System.Historian Estelle Freedman records the terse diary entry, “The burning of letters continues,” which alerted her to pioneer prison superintendent Miriam Van Waters's erasure of her correspondence with her beloved friend Geraldine Thompson. Miriam Van Waters, who formed a deeply romantic relationship with her benefactor Geraldine Thompson, herself a married woman, struggled with the definition of being lesbian. In the 1920s, when the two women first met, the concept of homosexuality was no mystery, and Van Waters had read the work of the sexologists. But “lesbianism” suggested gender inversion, the “mannish” lesbian, or a Freudian notion of pathology, and Miriam and Geraldine considered themselves “normal.” Yet they were also careful to conceal their relationship in certain situations, and Van Waters expressed doubt about her own sexuality. When Van Waters later came under attack for tolerating homosexuality at the women's prison she supervised, she and Thompson systematically burned their letters. Van Waters did not consider her relationship with Thompson in the same category as the lesbianism among prison inmates, but she was afraid others would.
Thompson was born in 1872 in New York City, the daughter of William Dare Morgan and Angelica Livingston Hoyt. Her sister was peace lobbyist Ruth Morgan. In 1896, she married Lewis Steenrod Thompson, heir to a fortune amassed by his father, William Payne Thompson, a founder of the National Lead Company and later a treasurer of Standard Oil. Devoted to fishing, hunting, and horse racing, Lewis Thompson lived for much of each year at Sunny Hill, a plantation he owned in southern Georgia, while Geraldine Thompson generally remained with the children at Brookdale Farm. The couple had four children of their own, and the Brookdale household included five orphaned relatives and many servants. Lewis Thompson died in 1936.
Thompson was a feminist social worker, and her activism was aimed at female prison reform, public health and juvenile justice. She donated money to psychiatric services and college scholarships. In 1923, she was the first female New Jersey delegate to a Republican National Convention. She was a lifelong friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. She helped preserve Island Beach as a state park and worked to save wildlife habitat.
Her awards included an honorary Master of Philanthropy degree, conferred in 1931 by Rutgers University. She was the first New Jersey woman to receive this honor.
Thompson maintained a 40-year romantic and professional relationship with Miriam Van Waters, a prison reformer who served as superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women at Framingham. Van Waters was a closeted lesbian who eventually destroyed most of the letters she received from Thompson.
Thompson died on September 9, 1967, at Brookdale Farm, Lincroft, New Jersey. She is buried at Saint James Episcopal Churchyard in Hyde Park, New York.
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