Sarah (Rutherford) Trowbridge, 1641-1687.

Sarah Trowbridge 1687

Sarah was the daughter of Henry and Sarah (Newman) Rutherford and the wife of Thomas Trowbridge, Esq., who was born in Exeter, Devonshire, England in 1632. (The Rutherfords were next door neighbors of the Trowbridges on Meadow Street.)

Thomas married Sarah Rutherford on June 24, 1657 when she was sixteen. They had seven children. After Sarah’s death, Thomas married Hannah (Nash) Ball, widow of Eliphalet Ball.

Sarah is described as “the daughter of a leading merchant in the colony” by one source, and her father and husband collaborated on at least one export deal.  Sarah’s stone, dated 1687, is the oldest in the crypt.  It is also the least skilled: the engraver ran out of room for her surname on the front plane of this crude field stone after the letter “D,” wrapped the “G” along the side and gave up on the “E”…and presented this to the family as his finished work.  Located to the immediate left is the stone of her daughter Sarah, who passed away three years later in 1690; it was apparently engraved by the same hand, but this time around he managed to fit all of her information in the space available.  (The crypt’s Lydia Rosewell — wife of the first treasurer of Yale College — was another one of Sarah’s daughters.)

Sarah Trowbridge’s stone is inscribed with the honorific “Ms” instead of “Mrs,” though the ‘s’ floats above like an afterthought or perhaps another near-casualty of the stonecutter’s tracking issues.  In 1982, William Safire wrote an “On Language” column for the New York Times on the subject of the term “Ms.” entitled, “Terrific Honorific” which claimed

The earliest spotting of that term was on a 1767 gravestone in Plymouth, Mass. (”Here lies Interrd the body of Ms. Sarah Spooner”). That early usage – perhaps by an absent-minded chiseler – was reborn in the late 1960’s as a blend of Mrs. and Miss.

It’s not certain whether the elder Sarah Trowbridge’s stone was carved in 1687 or commissioned as a pair later on with her daughter’s stone (after the younger Sarah passed in 1690), but the New Haven Colony’s own absent-minded, accidental-feminist chiseler clearly beat out Plymouth’s by at least 70+ years.

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