Native American Mill Girl
During the 1830s and 1840s, Betsey Guppy Chamberlain (daughter of an Algonquian woman) worked in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts and wrote stories for two workers’ magazines. A brave and pioneering author, Chamberlain wrote the earliest known Native American fiction and some of the earliest nonfiction about the persecution of Native people.
Image: Betsy Guppy Chamberlain, right
With another Lowell Mill girl
Betsey Guppy was born December 29, 1797 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. She was the daughter of William Guppy and Comfort Meserve Guppy. She was of mixed race: American and Algonquian Indian. Betsey married Josiah Chamberlain on June 25, 1820, and they had two children; he died July 19, 1823. Unable to do the work alone, she was forced to sell their farm and work in the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts to support herself and her children. The mills paid good wages, but the hours were long.
Texas Rancher and Pioneer Female Trail Driver
In the mid-1800s, cattle ranching was becoming big business in Texas, but not all ranchers were men. Margaret Borland was one of the very few frontier women who ran ranches and handled her own herds. She drove 1000 head of Texas Longhorn cattle up the Chisholm Trail from south Texas to Wichita, Kansas – a tough trip for the four young children she was forced to take with her.
Margaret Heffernan was born April 3, 1824 in New York City. Her parents, both born in Ireland, had sailed to America a few years before Margaret’s birth. Her father was a candlemaker who struggled to provide a living for his family. When land agent John McMullen came to New York telling tales of lucrative opportunities available in Texas, the Heffernans agreed to join his colony.
One of the First American Women Journalists
Kate Field was one of the first American celebrity journalists. A literary and cultural sensation, she wrote for several prestigious newspapers, such as the Boston Post, Chicago Tribune, and New York Herald. She was an intelligent and independent woman, an outspoken advocate for the rights of black Americans and founder of the first woman’s club in America.
Mary Katherine Kate Field was born October 1, 1838 in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of an actor father and a Philadelphia Quaker mother. Kate lived with her millionaire aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Milton H. Sanford, and they financed her education in New England, and then in England. They also traveled throughout Europe – to Paris, Rome and Florence – and supported her lavishly while she became acquainted with the social and cultural elite.
19th Century Sculptor and Poet
Anne Whitney was a poet and sculptor who fought to become an artist in a society that did not readily accept female sculptors; sculpture was considered a masculine art form. As with so many of the first 19th century women sculptors, Whitney was a member of a wealthy and supportive family, who helped her financially while she developed her natural talents.
Image: Anne Whitney (seated)
With partner and painter Abby Adeline Manning
Anne Whitney was born September 2, 1821 in Watertown, Massachusetts; she was the daughter of well- to-do farmer Nathaniel Whitney and his wife Sarah Stone Whitney. Her supportive and liberal parents encouraged Anne to develop her artistic talents.
Ethnologist, Anthropologist and Social Scientist
Alice Cunningham Fletcher was a pioneer in the science of ethnology, living among American Indians while studying and documenting their culture. Fletcher was a leader in the movement to bring Native Americans into the mainstream of white society, but some of her ideas proved to be detrimental to the Indians.
Alice Cunningham Fletcher was born in Havana, Cuba March 15, 1838 after her family traveled there in an effort to improve her father’s health. Both of her parents were from wealthy New England families – her father was a New York lawyer and her mother came from a prominent Boston business family. Little documentation of her early life remains. After her father died in 1839, the family moved to Brooklyn Heights, her mother enrolled Alice in the Brooklyn Female Academy, an exclusive school for daughters of the elite.
Pioneer in Education in Early Missouri
Mary Easton Sibley was an early American pioneer and educator. In 1830, she and her husband founded a girls’ school in St. Charles, Missouri that would become the Lindenwood College for Women, the first women’s college west of the Mississippi River. Today, Lindenwood University is a major coeducational institution that continues to honor Sibley and her dedication to education for women.
Image: Map of the Louisiana Purchase
Including exploration routes of the early 1800s
Mary Easton was born January 24, 1800 in Rome New York, the first of eleven children born to Rufus Easton and Alby Smith Easton. In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Rufus Easton territorial judge of the Louisiana Territory, and the family moved to St. Louis. Rufus Easton became a prominent St. Louis attorney and Missouri’s second Attorney General.
One of the First American Women Sculptors
Emma Stebbins was among the first notable American women sculptors and part of a group of who learned to work in marble in Rome in the mid-1800s. She produced her most famous works between 1859 and 1869, when she was in her forties and early fifties.
Stebbins was born September 1, 1815 to a wealthy family in New York City, daughter of nine children of a bank president. Emma’s family encouraged her to pursue her talents in art from an early age. Stebbins studied at several American studios and exhibited at the National Academy of Design and other shows.
By her twenties, she was a diligent and dedicated worker whose skill and perseverance were remarked upon by contemporaries. For many years Stebbins devoted herself to painting in oils and watercolors, working also in crayon and pastels, and later sculpture.
First Professional American Woman Artist
Sarah Miriam Peale is America’s first truly professional female artist. She had a career of nearly sixty years during which she lived on her own and supported herself with her art. Considered the leading portrait painter in Baltimore and St. Louis during the 19th century, she successfully competed with male painters of that time
Image: Self-portrait of the artist, 1818
National Portrait Gallery
Sarah Miriam Peale, born May 19, 1800 in Philadelphia, was descended from the Peales, a great family of American painters. She was the youngest daughter born to famous early American artist James Peale and Mary Claypoole Peale. Her father trained her; she served as his studio assistant. Like her older sisters, Anna and Margaretta, Sarah learned to mix paints, prepare canvases, and delineate backgrounds.
Pioneer in Education for African American Women
Sarah Jane Woodson Early was an African American educator, author and feminist. For 30 years Early was a teacher and school principal in Ohio, and in the South after the Civil War. In 1866 she became the first African American woman professor when she was hired by Wilberforce University to teach Latin and English.
Image: Young Sarah Woodson
Sarah Jane Woodson, fifth daughter and youngest child of eleven of Jemima (Riddle) and Thomas Woodson (1790–1879), was born free in Chillicothe, Ohio November 15, 1825. Her parents had moved to the free state of Ohio about 1821 from Virginia, where they had been freed from slavery. They lived for some years in Chillicothe, and founded the first black Methodist church west of the Alleghenies.
Pioneer and Philanthropist in Early Colorado
Traditionally, women’s philanthropic activities were tied to their husband’s wealth, but some women did it all by themselves. A freed slave, Clara Brown established a successful laundry business during the Colorado Gold Rush. She was a black pioneer, the first African American woman in Denver, a community leader and philanthropist.
Image: Clara Brown between 1875 and 1880
Born a slave in Virginia in 1800, at a young age Clara Brown and her mother were sold to Ambrose Smith, a Virginian tobacco farmer. Smith was a kindly man and a devout Methodist; he took Clara and her mother to his church services.