Rose Hollingsworth (1863-1915), a wealthy Boston socialite who purchased Sycamores at the turn of the 20th century, would in her time have been considered what we today call an avant garde liberal and activist. Although she was the only child of a comfortable upper class family, Rose seemed always to be slightly outside and ahead of what was considered the usual role for one of her station: early marriage and maintaining the then traditional role as wife and mother. There is no indication or apparent recorded evidence that she ever aspired to or embraced that life. Instead, as she grew to adulthood she acquired numerous and varied interests, unusual for young women of her time: she was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Audubon Society, a photographer, mountain climber, traveler and also was involved in amateur theatricals.
Her efforts with a camera earned her praise as “a very successful photographer” who specialized in views from mountain tops. A world traveler, Rose, sometimes with her mother and again with friends, visited Europe and the Far East. Rose spent the winter of 1892 in Leipzig with Isabel Barrows, a friend of Julia Ward Howe, and Barrows’ daughter Mabel.
Rose also is reported to have corresponded with Caroline Wells Healey Dall (1822-1912), a leading 19th century reformer and essayist. Dall, a feminist and Unitarian Church liberal, played a significant role in the anti-slavery movement and the drive for women’s suffrage.
Both Rose and her mother were listed in Clark’s Boston Blue Book, a compendium of the Brahamin elite. They were identified as Mrs. George Hollingsworth and Miss Rose Hollingsworth, each at 2 Hanover Ave., Beacon Hill.
Rose was 37 when she purchased the Sycamores property at 28 Woodbridge St., South Hadley, in 1900. She is believed to have erected the water tower and planted what would become renowned formal gardens on the south lawn.
Rose’s father, George Hollingsworth (1813-1882), was an architect and painter of renown
in New England and studied in Florence, Italy. A painting he did of his family is held in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. There also is a bronze statue of artist George Hollingsworth in the MFA that is the work of Augustus St. Gaudens.
Rose Hollingsworth sold Sycamores to Joseph Skinner in 1915, shortly before she died in December of that year at the age of 52. Rose and her mother had moved to the Charlesgate Hotel at 535 Beacon St. According to the Boston Post that published her will immediately after her death in late December of 1915, she had been an invalid “for some time.” Her mother died at the age of 77 on December 3 in the same year, according to the Boston Post. Rose’s funeral was on December 29, 1915.
Bequests in the will of Rose Hollingsworth indicate a substantial fortune that was acquired by the earlier family that founded a paper business in Milton. That business exists to this day and is still headed by a member of the Hollingsworth family. Among the many generous bequests listed in Rose Hollingsworth’s will are gifts of $5,000 to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Radcliffe College, MIT and the Tuskegee Institute, and $300 to the Gaylord Library in South Hadley.