First Women in Business

Business Women in the Early United States

Women have always struggled with the challenges presented by socially-determined gender roles, which have both created opportunities for women’s advancement and limited their growth as professionals.

Image: Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Eliza Lucas Pinckney
Business: Agriculture
Eliza Lucas (1722-1793) was born in Antigua, West Indies and grew up at one of her family’s sugarcane plantations on the island. Her parents, Lt. Colonel George Lucas and his wife Ann sent all their children to London to be educated. Eliza studied French and music, but her favorite subject was botany.

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Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith

Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Activist

Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith and her husband Gerrit Smith were wealthy activists and philanthropists who committed themselves to the movement to end slavery in 1835. They were prominent members of antislavery societies in New York State and on a national level.

Image: Gerrit and Ann Fitzhugh Smith Mansion
This house was a refuge for the many escaped slaves who received food and comfort on their journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Early Years
Ann Carroll Fitzhugh was born January 11, 1805. Her father William Fitzhugh, a colonel in the Continental Army, built a home near Chewsville, Maryland which he called The Hive because of the many activities carried on by his twelve children and the work necessary to sustain life in the surrounding wilderness. Fitzhugh left Maryland for New York, where – along with Colonel Nathaniel Rochester and Charles Carroll – he purchased the “100-acre Tract” at the Genesee Falls that would become the city of Rochester.

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Lucy Stone

Pioneer Women’s Rights Activist

Lucy Stone spoke out against slavery and for women’s rights at a time when it was not popular for women to speak in public, and she was the first woman to keep her maiden name after she was married. Her name is often overlooked in the history of the fight for women’s suffrage, but this trailblazer achieved several firsts for women, particularly in Massachusetts.

The Woman Question
In 1836, at age eighteen, Lucy Stone began noticing newspaper reports of a controversy that some referred to as the woman question. What was woman’s proper role in society? Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison asked to women to circulate antislavery petitions and send the signatures to Congress. Many women responded, which started a debate over whether women were entitled to a political voice.

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Meta Brevoort

First American Woman to Climb the Matterhorn

Meta (Marguerite Claudia) Brevoort was born November 8, 1825 in New York. She spent her early years in a Paris convent school. She was an American mountain climber who waited until she was about 40 to become a mountaineer. With her nephew and and dog Tschingel, she was the first climber to ascend several peaks in the Dauphine Alps of southeastern France, an unexplored region at that time. She was one of a small band of women who blazed a trail in the Alps for climbers who came after her.

Image: The Tschingel Company in 1874
Left to right: Christian Almer, Ulrich Almer, Meta Brevoort with the dog Tschingel and her nephew William Coolidge

Meta Brevoort began mountain climbing at the age of forty, in the summer of 1865 she brought her nephew William Augustus Brevoort Coolidge (1850-1926) from his home in New York to Europe and introduced him to Alpine climbing. They climbed together for more than ten seasons. In Switzerland, they met alpine-guide Christian Almer and adopted him as their personal guide. Brevoort and Coolidge began winter mountaineering, which was not very pleasant, but they became the first people to ascend the Wetterhorn and other nearby peaks.

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Romantic Friendship

Women Living Happily With Women

A romantic friendship is a very close but non-sexual relationship between same-sex friends who often shared a degree of physical closeness like kissing, hugging, holding hands, and sharing a bed. Such friendships offered emotional support and companionship in a society where women had few freedoms. Many of these women later left the romantic friendship and married men.

Women in romantic friendships usually lived together, in a world where women had few choices as to where they must live. As long as they remained single and had no other arrangements, they were forced to live with a male family member – father, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin. As they aged, they were often shuttled from household to household, never feeling welcome anywhere.

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Eliza Greatorex

Painter, Illustrator and Pen and Ink Artist

Eliza Greatorex was a noted painter of landscapes and cityscapes; she was especially known for her pen and ink drawings of New York and European scenes. She was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Design, one of America’s first women illustrators, and one of the earliest women artists to reproduce scenes of Colorado in pen and ink drawings.

Image: Portrait of Eliza Pratt Greatorex
By Ferdinand Thomas Lee Boyle (1869)
Credit: National Academy of Design, New York

Early Years
Eliza Pratt was born December 25, 1819 in Manorhamilton, Ireland, and she emigrated to New York City with her family in 1840. In 1849 she married Henry Wellington Greatorex, a composer of hymns such as “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” They had two daughters, Eleanor and Kathleen, and a son Thomas, who died in Colorado in 1881 at about the age of thirty. The Greatorexes traveled throughout North America and Europe while Henry performed in concerts.

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Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

She Dedicated Her Life to Women’s Rights

Susan Brownell Anthony was a feminist and reformer whose Quaker family was committed to social equality. She began collecting anti-slavery petitions when she was 17 and became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society at age 36. In 1869, Anthony, alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, and they played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement.

Early Years
Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts to Quaker Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read Anthony, who shared a passion for social reform. Daniel encouraged all of his children, girls as well as boys, to be self-supporting; he taught them business principles and gave them responsibilities at an early age.

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Eliza Starbuck Barney

Abolitionist, Botanist, Genealogist, and Suffragist

Eliza Starbuck Barney was an ardent Quaker who championed abolition, temperance, and women’s rights. Her massive genealogical work contains vital information about more than 40,000 Nantucketers; it is the most reliable genealogy for Nantucket’s families for the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. The Barney Record is now the foundation of the genealogical collection and database at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library.

Early Years
Eliza was born April 9, 1802 to Quakers Joseph and Sally Gardner Starbuck on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Joseph Starbuck, the island’s most successful businessman, made a fortune in whale oil. Local schools offered girls equal opportunities for education with those of their brothers. During her studies, Eliza developed an enduring interest in the natural sciences, agriculture, and history.

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Underground Railroad at The Wayside

Safe House for Authors and Fugitive Slaves

The Wayside, a residence in Concord, Massachusetts, served as a safe house for fugitive slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad in the mid-nineteenth century. It was also home to three American literary figures: Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney.

Image: The Wayside

Underground Railroad at The Wayside
The Wayside is located on the same road upon which the British advanced and retreated on April 19, 1775 when the colonists began fighting for their liberty from Britain. One of the early occupants, Samuel Whitney, was a muster master for the Concord Minutemen. Whitney had fought bravely for American independence, but he also owned slaves, who yearned for liberty as much as their master. Henry David Thoreau wrote that one of Whitney’s slaves fled from the house and volunteered as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, thereby earning his freedom at the end of the war.

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Mollie Dorsey Sanford

Women Who Settled the Midwest and the West

Image: Mollie Dorsey Sanford
Mollie, left, and her sister Nan
In 1857, the year they moved to Nebraska City

Mollie Dorsey Sanford was a young bride who crossed the plains – from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains – during the Colorado Gold Rush. Her diary, published as Mollie, the Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford in Nebraska and Colorado Territories 1857 to 1866 (1959), is regarded as one of the most accurate accounts of life on the frontier and an important document in the history of the American West.

Backstory
The Midwestern United States (or Midwest) is a name for the north-central states of the United States of America. The states that are part of the Midwest are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

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