Smith worked for Stevens for 24 years as his housekeeper and trusted caregiver.

Her close relationship with Stevens afforded her unusual opportunities to participate in politics and advance within society. After his death, she broke social barriers to achieve remarkable influence and wealth.

A landlord and business owner in a challenging era for women, especially Black women, (Smith could not legally claim citizenship until 1865), Smith nonetheless filed lawsuits to defend herself and her property. She mingled with the nation’s most influential politicians and drew national attention. Smith was driven to advance herself and her family, raising two children independently after leaving her husband.

The penned signature of Lydia Smith on a slip of lined paper.
Lydia Hamilton Smith's signature. From the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Thaddeus Stevens Papers.
A rendering of visitors viewing a large multi-media display.

Smith accomplished all of this while facing prejudice as a single, mixed-race woman. Her life provides a unique opportunity to explore the experiences of Black women and their role in shaping 19th-century America.

While Lydia Hamilton Smith may be best known for her connection to Thaddeus Stevens, the Stevens & Smith Center will demonstrate that she was not only a supporting player on Stevens’ stage:

She was a woman of striking individual achievements.

…as the managing head of Mr. Stevens’ household she came in contact with many of the great men of the country, of whom she conversed intelligently and most entertainingly.

Lancaster New Era

February 15, 1884

a historical building in downtown Lancaster masked by an ampersand

Honor her achievements.

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