The seven women known as the Seven Sisters ran the day to day business affairs of the Koreshan Unity in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At this time in history, women were not involved in business, but Koresh (Cyrus Teed) believed in gender equality and placed these women in positions of authority.
The Seven Sisters took their name from Pleiades, a star cluster called the Seven Sisters. In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of the Titan, Atlas and the Oceanid, Pleione, and were companions of Artemis, the god of war.
The Seven Sisters lived in the Planetary Court, built in 1904, named for the seven known planets in our solar system at that time.
The Planetary Council
The Seven Sisters formed the Planetary Council, the governing body of the Koreshan Unity, who conducted the day-to-day business affairs of the Unity. Unlike other female members of the Unity, who lived in an ordinary dorm, the Seven Sisters had their own home and private bedchambers, and office in the Planetary Court.
The only male occupant of the Planetary Court was Henry Silverfriend, a brother of one of the Sisters, Henrietta (Etta) Silverfriend. Henry lived on the top floor, the cupola and acted as the protector of the sisters. Because the men of that time refused to do business with women, he was also the spokesman for the sisters in business dealings with the local townsmen.
Virginia Andrews – Also Secretary of the Board. She was married to a doctor who died in 1891. Her two sons learned printing. One son, Allen, later became editor of The American Eagle, a Koreshan political newspaper.
Eleanor Castle – Professor of Languages from Chicago. She was the educator of the Koreshan Unity and taught both children and adults.
Berthaldine (Beth) Boomer – Writer and wealthy patron of the Unity. Although married, her husband remained in Chicago. Berthaldine was the first of the Seven Sisters to die; she passed in 1935.
Evelyn Bubbett – Business manager of The Guiding Star, another Koreshan newspaper, and served as the Unity’s Secretary of the Board. She was married and had three children.
Ella Graham – Linotype operator in the printshop. She was married and had four children. Her husband and three of her children eventually left the Unity.
Rose Welton Gilbert – First female U.S. Postmaster in Florida, she held this post from 1914 until 1941, making her Estero’s longest-serving postmaster. She had only one son.
Etta Silverfriend – Unity treasurer, manager of the Koreshan newspaper, The Flaming Sword, and Unity bookkeeper. She was single, and briefly worked for Victoria Woodhull, a leader of the American women’s suffrage movement and nominee for United States president in 1872. Etta was later nominated for Unity president.
These seven women served in leadership roles long before women could vote, and were active in the suffrage movement, which eventually led to 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.
To learn more about these exceptional women, and the Koreshan Unity and Settlement, take a guided tour or purchase The Allure of Immortality, now available in paperback in the ranger station.