In the 1830s, the sisters Lydia and Elisa Bigelow could trace their ancestry in Massachusetts back almost two centuries. The daughters of John (1783-1853) and Abigail Richardson (1795-1868) Bigelow, the sisters were born in Boston, though they and their five brothers remained in Worcester throughout most of the antebellum years, living solidly respectable lives as members of the artisanal and middle class.
Lydia attended a girls' school in Petersham, Mass., and within a couple of years of graduation, married a clerk in the Worcester dry goods firm of H. & H. Chamberlain, Samuel Hathaway. Elisa, the elder sister by seven years, had married Henry A. Page a year previously, in 1842. The women's led lives that, typically for the era, revolved around the domestic sphere of family, church, and the community of female friends. Lydia's life, however, was quite short, ending in 1850.