Some may call her the ‘Monarch of the River City’.

She was instrumental in the progression and prosperity of Peoria, all while battling hardship after hardship. Lydia Moss Bradley is most widely known as the woman responsible for establishing what we know today as Bradley University. There’s much more to her story than meets the eye.

“The legacy of Lydia Moss Bradley, when you really think about it, and it sinks in.. is absolutely incredible,” said Renee Charles, University Spokesperson & Executive Director of PR for Bradley University.

“She was always looking at how can we improve things and make it better,” said Barbara Kearns, executive director of learning design and technology.

Born in 1816, Lydia Moss Bradley began pioneering her life of nurturing and prosperity all in the face of adversity right here in the midwest.

“She didn’t set limits on herself,” said Kearns. “So she certainly was engaged. She researched. She surrounded herself that were smart and wise.”

Born in a small town in the Hoosier state, she and her husband Tobias made their way to Central Illinois where they began crafting their life together. 

“That ingenuity, that innovation, on top of all the other things that she did,” said Charles. “The list is endless of what she’s done that people don’t even realize the little things that she’s touched that wouldn’t be here today.”

She didn’t lead a life without loss though. Lydia Moss Bradley had to bury all six of her children. Each dying before the age of 14. From the ruins of heartbreak comes brute strength and dedication to making a life worth living. 

“She was the first woman to sit on a bank board,” said Charles. “She helped to start a church. She was single handedly the person who started the first park district in Illinois. She donated the land for Laura Bradley Park. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.”

A philanthropist at heart and by her actions, she didn’t let the times block her from growth. 

“She wanted to improve society,” said Kearns. “She wanted to make everything better. Everything she touched.”

“It gives you goose bumps and chills to really think about how much somebody did at that time with all of those different things working against her,” said Charles.

Women today tell her story in hopes to inspire women and men of all ages. If she could be on the board of a national bank, if she could start a university, if she could create a park district…what could you do today? 

“She’s inspiring,” said Kearns. “She is absolutely inspiring and we all hope that we can live the values that she instilled in this institution and this community and continue to pay that forward and help others.”

For Women’s History Month, it’s only appropriate to honor and respect one of the greatest women in Central Illinois history.

“She did not keep quiet about things when she say that things could be done better,” said Kearns. “So she was continually improving. She had a growth mindset and didn’t allow limitations like ideas of the time that women couldn’t be successful in these areas. She didn’t let them limit her at all.”