The Forten Sisters

The Forten Women of Philadelphia

The Fortens were one of the most prominent black families in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Wealthy sailmaker James Forten and his wife Charlotte Vandine Forten headed the family; their daughters were: Margaretta, Harriet, and Sarah. The Fortens were active abolitionists who took part in founding and financing at least six abolitionist organizations. The Forten sisters were educated in private schools and by private tutors.

Image: Sisters by Keith Mallett

Margaretta Forten (1806-1875)

Margaretta was an African American abolitionist and suffragist. She worked as a teacher for at least thirty years. During the 1840s she taught at a school run by Sarah Mapps Douglass; in 1850 she opened her own school. Margaretta never married and lived with her parents as an adult. In time, she took on the responsibility of running of her parents’ home on Lombard Street in Philadelphia, caring for her elderly mother and bachelor brothers Thomas and William.

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Sara Plummer Lemmon

Women in Science: California Botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon

After marrying botanist and Civil War veteran John Lemmon, Sara sold her library in Santa Barbara, California and traveled to Arizona for their honeymoon. Before returning home to California, Sara discovered and cataloged for the first time a variety of species native to the mountains and surrounding areas.

Image: Sara Plummer opened the Lending Library and Stationery Depot in March 1871.
Credit: Santa Barbara Independent

Early Years
Sara Plummer was born in New Gloucester, Maine, on September 3, 1836. She attended teachers college in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then moved to New York City, where she taught art at Grammar School No. 14 and studied at the Cooper Union. Miss Plummer also served as a nurse for a year or two during the Civil War. After Sara had suffered from a severe case of pneumonia, her doctor suggested she relocate to a more suitable climate.

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Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu

First Female Lighthouse Keeper in Florida

A lighthouse is a tower that emits a flashing beam of light from a system of lamps and lenses. They mark dangerous coastlines, shoals, or reefs, and guide pilots at sea into safe harbors. In the 19th century, they were vital lifelines to maintaining safety at sea.

Image: St. Augustine Lighthouse, home of Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu
Built in 1700; aided mariners for 162 years.
Image shows the various stages of the lighthouse structure.
Photograph courtesy National Archives

Backstory
Don Juan Ponce de Leon discovered La Florida, the Land of Flowers, in 1513. Approximately fifty years later, Spain attempted to colonize Florida by dispatching Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to the area. Menendez arrived off the Florida coast in 1565 and established the fledgling colony of St. Augustine, the oldest permanent European settlement in North America. Near St. Augustine, the Matanzas River flows past barrier islands named Anastasia and Conch and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Eleanor Creesy, Navigator

Female Navigator of the World’s Fastest Clipper Ship

Eleanor Creesy was the navigator of Flying Cloud, a clipper ship that set the world’s sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco in 1851. She and her husband – Josiah Perkins Creesy, skipper – beat their own record two years later, and it was not broken until 1989.

Image: Clipper ship Flying Cloud by Currier and Ives
Flying Cloud, a Gold Rush era clipper ship, was commanded by Captain Josiah Creesy from 1851-1855. Eleanor Creesy sailed with her husband and served as his navigator throughout his career.

Early Years
Eleanor Prentiss was born on September 21, 1814, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her father was a master mariner, and he taught Eleanor the mathematics of navigation when she was a girl. Neighbors thought it was peculiar that her father educated Eleanor at a time when women rarely learned a trade, especially one dominated by men. Her dream was to marry a sea captain and sail with him around the world, and she rejected many suitors until she found the right man. In 1841 Eleanor married her sailor, Captain Josiah Creesy.

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Slaves in the White House I

Slaves and Presidents at the White House

Construction on the President’s House began in 1792 in Washington, DC, a new capital situated in a sparsely settled region far from a major population center. Eleven U.S. presidents were slaveholders. Seven of those owned slaves while living at the White House: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor.

Image: Black cook working in the White House kitchen
Damp and moldy, the ground floor was a difficult place for the White House staff to work and live.
Photograph by Frances Benjamin

Slave Quarters at the White House
Not only did enslaved men and women work in the White House, but they also lived there; most often in rooms in the basement. Open at ground level on the south, the basement had windows on the north facing an area that was entirely hidden from view except from the kitchen. This vaulted corridor once accessed a forty-foot kitchen with large fireplaces at each end, a family kitchen, an oval servants hall, the steward’s quarters, and the servants’ bedrooms.

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Frances Fuller Victor

Author of Dime Novels and Oregon History

Frances Fuller Victor was a historian and historical novelist, who became the founding mother of all Oregon history. By the time she arrived in the Beaver State, she was already a well-known writer. Acknowledged by the Portland Oregonian as the Mother of Oregon History, Victor has also been described as ‘the first Oregon historian to gain regional and national attention.’

Early Years
Frances Auretta Fuller was born in 1826 in Rome, New York. The Fullers relocated to Wooster, Ohio in 1839, where Frances was educated in a girls’ school. Frances and her younger sister Metta started writing and publishing stories and poetry – first in local newspapers like the Cleveland Herald and Sandusky Daily Register and later in the New York Home Journal, a popular literary and arts magazine.

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Underground Railroad in Maryland

Underground Railroad in a Border State

Along with the earliest legal references to slavery in Maryland in the 17th century, there were attempts to control runaway slaves through legislation. Acts of self-emancipation made slaves “fugitives” according to the laws of the time. The abolitionist movement that began in the 1830s and its Underground Railroad focused the nation’s attention on slavery to a much greater degree than earlier attempts to end the institution.

Image: Kunta Kinte – Alex Haley Memorial
Annapolis, Maryland
Ed Dwight, sculptor
The inscription reads:

To commemorate the arrival in this harbor of Kunta Kinte, immortalized by Alex Haley in Roots, and all others who came to these shores in bondage and who by their toil, character and ceaseless struggle for freedom have helped to make these United States.

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Mary Anna Cooke Thompson

Portland’s First Woman Physician

An advocate for women’s rights throughout her life, she first broke through the barriers to women in medicine while she was raising a family in Illinois. Later honored as one of Oregon’s pioneer doctors, Mary Anna Cooke Thompson practiced medicine in Oregon for more than forty years.

Image: Dr. Mary Anna Cooke Thompson
Courtesy Joseph Gaston
Portland: Its History and Builders

Early Years
Mary Anna Cooke was born February 14, 1825 in New York City. Her parents, Horatio and Anna Bennett Cooke, were both from England. The Cooke family moved to Chicago, Illinois when Mary was twelve.

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Black Women Writers of the 19th Century

African-American Women Authors in Antebellum America

Image: Middle-class black women who loved to read did not have many role models.
Credit: Jeffrey Green

Prior to the Civil War, the majority of African-Americans living in the United States were held in bondage. Although law forbade them, many found a way to learn to read and write. More African-Americans than we could have imagined published poetry, biographies, novels and short stories.

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