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  • Writer's pictureFather Lance W. Harlow

Don't You Know this Woman? She was amazing!

"Miss Eliza Sessions who is teaching in Westminster at the Kurn Hattin Home...gave a short talk at the Sunday school session at the Methodist Church on Sunday [in East Middlebury, Vermont]," from the Burlington Free Press, April 6, 1905.

"Miss E. Eliza Sessions of the famous Kern (sic.) Hattin school is expected here [Benson, Vermont] in a few days," from the Burlington Free Press May 4, 1911.

"The representative of the Kurn Hattin Homes, Miss E. Eliza Sessions, of East Middlebury, who has a wide acquaintance in Burlington, is visiting in this city on her annual trip. The many friends of the Kurn Hattin Homes in Burlington will, no doubt, be very glad to receive a call from Miss Sessions and will manifest their interest in the splendid work done by this institution for needy boys of the State," Burlington Free Press, October 23, 1919.

"Miss Eliza Sessions has been making her annual canvass among the friends of the Kurn Hattin homes in the last few days," from The Monitor ( the weekly Orleans, Vermont newspaper) October 11, 1922.

Esther Eliza Sessions was a fundraiser for 45 years in the early part of the 20th Century. She is fascinating. She was born in East Middlebury on May 23, 1871. She was a graduate of Middlebury High School and became a teacher at Kurn Hattin in 1904. In June of 1905 she was asked to help in the task of raising funds for Kurn Hattin and began her work as a fundraiser when she was 34 years old. She eventually retired in 1949 when she was 78 years old to her home in East Middlebury--after four decades of raising money for the poor children. She died at the age of 94 on November 30, 1965 at the Bushey Nursing Home in Middlebury after a long illness. I was 2 years old when she died. And although our paths never crossed in this life, I would like to think that our spiritual paths have crossed. Her career was such an inspiration.

She traversed the New England states by train, trolley, walking and stagecoach to solicit money for the children at Kurn Hattin Homes. She initially worked in collaboration with the Reverend G.H. DeBevoise, pastor of a Keene, New Hampshire church as well as an early fundraiser and Vice-President at Kurn Hattin. Miss Sessions was aided in her travels by Miss Emily Stickney. Together they were called "The Kurn Hattin Ladies." They knew that good fundraising involved hitting the churches and social organizations, building relationships with donors and making personal contact with them. They were truly missionaries, braving closed doors and rejection, but also receiving generous donations from people who believed in the Kurn Hattin mission. Through their heroic work they established the early legacies and bequests that have kept Kurn Hattin Homes for Children open for 125 years!

I would like you, too, our donors to make history in two very concrete ways: (1) tell everybody you know about the great work Kurn Hattin has been doing for boys and girls for 125 years. You can do it by train, trolley, stagecoach, walking--or by email and Facebook, if that's easier! (2) make a donation right now (go to the Donate tab) to keep the kids safe, warm and well-fed. It's hard to believe she devoted her entire life and career to traveling the state of Vermont and the other New England states. How many thousands of speeches she must have given! How tired her feet must have gotten!

But how infectious was her zeal in what she believed was such a noble cause for philanthropy! What an amazing legacy she has handed over to us. Please help me keep it alive.

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