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Mrs. Joseph Sheffield, in the picture, was the first President of the all women Board of Managers of the Home For the Friendless, now known as Mary Wade Home. The Home began in 1866, following the Civil War, when a group of ladies representing the Churches of New Haven, were inspired to begin a program to aid women and children. A parcel of property was acquired at 118 Clinton Avenue at the corner of Pine Street in Fair Haven in September, and the Home opened in December. Mrs. Sheffield served as President from 1866 to 1868.
Maria St. John was born on May 22, 1801 and in 1822 married Joseph Earl Sheffield. Mr. Sheffield wrote of his wife of many years, "Blest with a most devoted wife, with whom I have lived happily for over fifty seven years, mother of nine children to whom she as devoted constant care, love and affection." Mr. Sheffield was one of Yale's greatest benefactors and continued to support the school throughout his life. Their home on Hillhouse Avenue is now one of the buildings of the Yale Sheffield Scientific School.
Testimonial to her in the 1889 Report of the Home for the Friendless, "Great loss in the death of Mrs. Sheffield, first President, one of the founders, and one who always retained a deep interest in the work, and who was ever ready to help by her generous pecuniary aid." Mrs. Sheffield died on April 21, 1889 and is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery.
David V. Hunter