Isabel K. Benjamin, First Lady of Irvington

by The Irvington Historical Society

Isabel K. Benjamin was an Irvington original.  Known as the “First Lady of Irvington” for her commitment to the civic life of the village, she founded the Irvington Girl Scouts in 1924 and led the organization for decades.

Ms. Benjamin was born in 1870, and she grew up in the rectory of The Church of St. Barnabas as the only child of the church’s second rector, Rev. William Henry Benjamin, D.D., and Isabel Rodgers Benjamin, the daughter of a famed New York surgeon.  From a young age, she loved nature and animals, and was rarely spotted as an adult without her beloved Pekingese.

In 1924, believing there were not enough activities for girls in the village, she started a troop of Girl Scouts in Irvington.  (Another troop had been started several years before, but did not continue.) By the 1950s, there were more than 200 girls signed up with the Irvington Girl Scouts.  Upon her death in 1961 and having no children of her own, she left a trust that benefits the Irvington Girl Scouts and the Altar Guild at St. Barnabas and continues to support these organizations to this day.  The trust also contributed to the town’s purchase of the current headquarters of the Village’s Recreation and Parks Department, which was named the Isabel K. Benjamin Community Center in her honor.

Ahead of next year’s centennial, Irvington Girl Scout cadettes Suhani Arya, Lily Korb and Elena Lark will present the research they have been conducting all year as part of their Silver Awards into the life and legacy of this feisty female, as well as the differences between scouting then and now.  They’ll be joined by special guests who will share their own memories of Girl Scouting in Irvington under the watchful eye of the woman they only dared to call “Benji” behind her back.

The presentation will take place on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at The Church of St. Barnabas, 15 N. Broadway in Irvington, and be followed by an ice cream social by Penny Lick, hosted by the Irvington Girl Scouts.

The event is free and open to the public.  Pre-registration is required.  You can register here.