Olive San Louie Anderson: “Being a Woman, What Shall I Do?”

Hugh Pease Anderson was born in Pennsylvania about 1815 and arrived in Richland County, Ohio in the late 1830s or early 1840s. Shortly after his arrival, on December 29, 1842,[1] he married Alice Cook, the daughter of Richland County Pioneer Jabez Cook, who arrived in the area in 1815 with his father Noah Cook. The Cook’s trace their ancestry back to Francis Cooke, who came over on the Mayflower.[2] Anderson was a respected doctor and surgeon and built a good life for himself in Troy Township, Richland County, Ohio. The couple had 5 children: Alfred Galen (b. 1844), William (b. 1847), Mary (b. 1849), Olive San Louie (b. 1852) , and Abby (b. 1857).[3] When the Civil War began, Dr. Anderson enlisted and was made captain of Company C of the 64th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His son, Alfred, enlisted alongside his father. A short time later, on November 27, 1861, Anderson was appointed Assistant Surgeon and Robert C. Brown took over command of Company C. Alfred would also be promoted to Hospital Steward on March 13, 1863.[4]

Dr. Anderson would die in Iowa on April 30, 1869 and his body would be returned to Mansfield to be interred in Mansfield Cemetery.[5] That same year, his daughter, Olive, would graduate from Mansfield High School. At commencement Olive, or Louie, read an essay titled Being a Woman, What Shall I Do?[6] The words and reaction to her essay are unknown. The only mention in the Mansfield Herald notes all the essays were “good, and worthy of notice.”[7] However, the title and her actions after high school indicate that she would not allow her future to be defined by her gender. Two years later, Olive would enroll in the University of Michigan.

In January of 1870, the university allowed its first female student, Madelon Stockwell. The following fall of 1871, 33 more women were admitted. Olive was one of the 13 women enrolled in the Department of Science, Literature, and Arts. She would graduate in 1875 and be the only woman to speak at commencement that year.[8] The next year she would make news again along with four other women. The group would set out to hike from Santa Barbara, California to the Gaviota Pass, causing the men to shake their heads and the old ladies to hold up their hands in horror. They would hire a “quiet, gray-haired teamster” to assist them on their journey.[9] The group collected over 40 birds on the 2 day expedition. “Jo,” as Olive was called by her friends, most likely named after Josephine “Jo” March from Little Women, shot the birds while the other skinned them and prepared them for stuffing.[13]

Olive San Louie Anderson

Olive would spend the next 10 years teaching in California, briefly at Santa Barbara College and later in San Rafael, California. It was during this time in California that she wrote her book titled An American Girl, and Her Four Years in a Boys’ College in 1878. The autobiographical work of fiction chronicles her experience at the University of Michigan. The book was published under the pen name SOLA, and anagram of her initials. The book also looks at “women’s struggles for higher education, courtship customs, and contemporary views of liberal religion and the women’s rights movement.”[10]

Miss Anderson had a promising and successful life ahead of her and was regarded as one of “the most interesting and intellectual women that ever blessed“ her community. She had planned to travel in the hopes of honing her writing and teaching skills and, in 1882, helped in opening the San Rafael Institute, a boarding school for girls, where she served as principal. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on June 5, 1886 when Anderson drowned in the Sacramento River at Rio Vista California. While on a yachting excursion with the Art League of San Francisco, a few of the members decided to go for a swim. Miss Anderson, along with a 12-year-old girl, swam down the river a short distance, staying close to the bank. Suddenly the other in the party heard a scream and turned to see Anderson going under. Every effort was made to rescue her, but the third time she sank she could not be found. After her body was recovered it was discovered there was a 20 foot deep hole which created an eddy which pulled her under. She was only 5 feet from the bank.[11]

After Olive’s death, her mother and sister, Abby, who had been living with her in California, moved to Topeka, Kansas, where Abby’s brother, William, was living. While there, Abby would carry on her sister’s spirit and become editor of a weekly newspaper titled “Equity.” The paper was devoted to solutions to the “social, economical and political problems of the day” and was said to not be “conducted on partisan lines.”[12] William died on August 29, 1896, in Kansas, and is buried in Topeka Cemetery. His mother, Alice, died on January 23, 1901. Her body was sent back to Mansfield to be buried next to her husband. Abby continued to live in Topeka, dying on November 26, 1915. She is buried in Topeka cemetery. Alfred Galen, who was living in Merrick County, Nebraska, died on May 17, 1909. It is unknown what happened to their sister Mary.


  1. Ancestry.com. Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
  2. Baughman, A. J. A Centennial Biographical History of Richland and Ashland Counties (1901). P. 520-523.
  3. Year: 1860; Census Place: Troy, Richland, Ohio; Page: 262; Family History Library Film: 805029
  4. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion (1887). P. 443-444.
  5. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 06 May 1869, p. 3.
  6. Mansfield High School Commencement (1869). Retrieved from https://shermanroom.omeka.net/items/show/716
  7. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio), 17 June 1869, p. 3.
  8. Olive San Louie Anderson, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_San_Louie_Anderson
  9. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio), 20 July 1876, p. 3.
  10. Olive San Louie Anderson, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_San_Louie_Anderson
  11. Marin Journal (San Rafael, Ca), Vol 26, No 14, 17 June 1886, p. 3.
  12. Bellville Messenger (Bellville, Ohio) 01 February 1901, p. 8.
  13. Pacific Rural Press (San Francisco, Ca), Vol 12, No 4, 22 July 1876, p 62.

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