Fidelia Bridges

She Painted the Art in Nature

Fidelia Bridges was one of the most renowned artists of her time and one of the very few women artists who supported herself with her work. She was known for her delicately detailed nature paintings, which were published in books and magazines. Her paintings convey the joy she felt in birds and flowers.

Image: Fidelia Bridges
Dressed for a painting excursion c. 1864
She wore black in the winter, gray linen in the summer.
Note the shorter dress with pants underneath. This style of dress is called the Bloomer costume, named for its designer, feminist Amelia Bloomer.

Early Years
Fidelia Bridges was born May 19, 1834, the daughter of sea captain Henry Gardiner Bridges and Eliza Chadwick Bridges. The family lived at 100 Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts, now known as the Fidelia Bridges Guest House. When Fidelia was 15, her father died while overseas. News traveled slowly in those days and knowledge of his death reached his family three hours after the death of their mother.

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First Feminists in the United States

First American Feminists

Feminism in the United States is often divided chronologically into first-wave (1848-1920), second-wave (early 1960s to 1980s), and third-wave (1990s-present). As of the most recent Gender Gap Index measurement of countries by the World Economic Forum in 2014, the United States is ranked 20th in gender equality.

Image: Amelia Bloomer (center) introduces Anthony (left) to Stanton.
Bloomer and Stanton are wearing the Bloomer costume (shorter dresses).
Seneca Falls, New York

Anthony and Stanton: Always at the Forefront
In the spring of 1851, William Lloyd Garrison conducted an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls. Susan B. Anthony attended, staying at the home of Amelia Bloomer. They met Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the street and immediately began their historic friendship.

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Mary Ann McClintock

Pioneer of the Women’s Rights Movement

Mary Ann McClintock was one five women who met for tea in Waterloo, New York, but the conversation soon turned to women’s rights, or rather the lack thereof. The result of this meeting, and another the following day at the McClintock House, was the First Women’s Rights Convention, which was held at Seneca Falls on July 19-20, 1848.

Born Mary Ann Wilson in Burlington, New Jersey of Quaker parents, she attended Westtown School in 1814 for one year. She married Thomas McClintock in 1820 and moved with him to 107 South Ninth Street, his store in Philadelphia. They had five children: Elizabeth (1821), Mary Ann (1822), Sarah (1824), Charles (1829) and Julia (1831). They lived in Philadelphia for the first seventeen years of their marriage; there they were active members of the Philadelphia Quaker community and were recognized by their meetings as leaders.

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Harriet Forten Purvis

Abolitionist and Suffragist

Harriet Forten Purvis was an African-American abolitionist and suffragist who helped establish the first women’s abolitionist group for blacks and whites, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. She fought against segregation and for the right for blacks to vote after the Civil War.

Early Years
Harriet Davy Forten was born in 1810 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of wealthy African-American inventor and businessman James Forten and educator and abolitionist Charlotte Vandine Forten. Hers was the most well-known black family in the city, who, according to William Lloyd Garrison, “have few superiors in refinement, in moral worth, in all that makes the human character worthy of admiration and praise.”

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Smith Sisters and Their Cows

Suffragists and Women’s Rights Activists

Julia Evelina Smith and Abby Hadassah Smith grew up on a wealthy estate in Glastonbury, Connecticut called Kimberly Farm. In their later years, the sisters refused to pay their exhorbitant property taxes until they were granted the right to vote in town meetings. Several of their cows were seized to pay overdue charges.

Image: Kimberly Mansion
1625 Main Street
Glastonbury, Connecticut

Early Years
Abigail Hadassah Smith (1797-1878) and Julia Evelina Smith (1792–1886) were the two youngest of a large family of women born to Hannah Hadassah (Hickok) Smith and Zephaniah Smith, a Congregational minister and lawyer. The sisters spent their entire lives at Kimberly Mansion, the Smith home at 1625 Main Street in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

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First American Women Painters II

Women Pioneers in the Art of Painting

In the nineteenth century, women artists signed their work with a first initial and last name to conceal their gender. They did not make significant progress until the second half of the 19th century, but they gradually became a force on the American art scene, winning prestigious commissions and awards.

Image: Rocky River Landscape (1881)
By Julie Hart Beers

Julie Hart Beers

(1835–1913)
Julie Hart Beers, a painter in the style of the Hudson River School, was one of very few professional women landscape painters in nineteenth-century America and the only one to achieve fame. Beers took her first art lessons from her two older brothers, James and William, who were already well-known artists. James had studied art in Europe, primarily Germany, and William had studied for several years in Great Britain.

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Christiana Carteaux Bannister

African American Hairdresser Who Saved Slaves

Image: Christiana Carteaux Bannister
Painted by her husband, Edward Mitchell Bannister

Christiana Carteaux Bannister was an African American abolitionist, philanthropist, and businessperson in New England in the mid-19th century. She met her husband, artist Edward Bannister, at her hair salon in Boston; the two were active in the Boston Underground Railroad helping runaway slaves reach the next station.

Early Years
She was born Christiana Babcock circa 1820 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island to African American and Narragansett Indian parents. Her African American grandparents most likely lived and died as slaves. Christiana’s parents were probably born after Rhode Island’s gradual emancipation act of 1784 was passed, and so gained complete freedom at the age of twenty-one. Little is known of her childhood.

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Emily Edson Briggs

One of the First Women Newspaper Correspondents in Washington

Emily Edson Briggs was a female newspaper reporter in the capital city. She was given access to the halls of Congress during the mid-1800s, which allowed her to describe the people and events there as a social commentator. She was one of the first women to acquire a national reputation in the field of journalism.

Emily Pomona Edson was born September 14, 1830 in Burton, Ohio but moved with her family to Chicago in 1840. She received an adequate education by attending local schools and taught briefly. In 1854, Emily married John Briggs.

In 1861, John Briggs was hired as an assistant clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives, and he wrote about political trends as well. Emily often accompanied him to the Lincoln White House where she became an ardent observer of the social and political happenings surrounding the First Couple.

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Elizabeth Buffum Chace

Abolitionist, Suffragist and Philanthropist

Elizabeth Buffum Chace was a tireless life-long activist in the Anti-Slavery, Women’s Rights, and Prison Reform movements of the mid-to-late 19th century. Following in the footsteps of her father, the first president of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, Chace helped found the Fall River Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835.

Early Years
She was born Elizabeth Buffum in Smithfield, Rhode Island on December 9, 1806 to Arnold Buffum and Rebecca Gould Buffum, whose families were among the oldest in New England. Elizabeth grew up in a household of anti-slavery Quakers and she spent a year studying at the Friends’ Boarding School in Providence in 1822.

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Underground Railroad in New York City

Slaves Seeking a Place to Live Free

Image: Plymouth Church
Brooklyn, New York

Thousands of people escaped bondage on the path from slavery to freedom called the Underground Railroad (UGRR) that ran through New York City. Sometimes the ships in the harbor carried slaves who slipped ashore and filtered into the population of the largest city in the country. Several Brooklyn churches participated in the UGRR; Plymouth Church was called its Grand Central Depot.

Plymouth Church
The Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims was founded in 1847, and its first pastor was Congregationalist minister Henry Ward Beecher, brother of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Reverend Charles Ray, an African-American living in Manhattan and the founding editor of the Colored American newspaper, stated that he “regularly drop off fugitives at Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Church in Brooklyn.” Beecher was quoted as saying:

I opened Plymouth Church, though you did not know it, to hide fugitives. I took them into my own home and fed them. I piloted them, and sent them toward the North Star, which to them was the Star of Bethlehem.

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