Pennsylvania Conductors Led Slaves to Freedom
Abolition of slavery was the great moral issue of the nineteenth century, especially after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which allowed owners to capture their slaves in free northern states and return them to the South. The Underground Railroad (UGRR) was a loose grouping of people who risked home and safety to help runaways escape bondage. The penalties for their actions were severe. If caught, a stationmaster on the UGRR could be jailed and fined $20,000, a huge sum at that time.
The Constitution of the United States had a fugitive slave clause that Congress implemented with the first Fugitive Slave Law in 1793, placing a fine on anyone rescuing, harboring, or hindering the arrest of a fugitive. This law was rendered ineffective by a decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1842 but Congress passed a stronger Fugitive Slave Law as part of the Compromise of 1850, in which federal authorities were required to hunt runaway slaves and return them to their masters.
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.
Abolitionist and Educator from Ohio
Betsey Mix Cowles was an educator, and an early leader in the abolitionist and women’s rights movement in the pre-Civil War era, advocating women’s access to education, equal rights, and independence. She dedicated her life to fighting slavery and improving the status of women. Her circle of friends included like-minded individuals like Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and Abby Kelley.
Betsy Mix Cowles was born February 9, 1810 in Bristol, Connecticut, the eighth child of Giles Hooker Cowles and Sally White Cowles. In 1811, the Cowles family settled in the town of Austinburg in Ashtabula, the most northeastern county in Ohio, where her father was a minister and where Betsy began her teaching career.
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.
UGRR Routes and Stations in New York State
Cyrus Gates Farmstead
The Cyrus Gates Farmstead stands in the town of Maine in Broome County, New York. Construction of the house began in 1848; the Greek Revival style was considered extravagant for a farmhouse.
Image: Cyrus Gates House
Maine, New York
Important stop along the UGRR
Also at the farmstead are two barns, a tenant farmer’s house, several outbuildings, a blacksmith’s shop, a four seat outhouse. Cyrus Gates was a cartographer and mapmaker for the State of New York.
Cyrus and Arabella Gates were outspoken abolitionists. From 1848 until slavery officially ended in 1865, the Gates Farmstead was a station on the UGRR. While it was illegal to serve as stationmaster or conductor on the UGRR, many people did not consider it unethical. After arguing with Cyrus over “breaking the law,” Cyrus’ brother William Gates, an ardent Copperhead, moved out of the family home.
Southern Baptist Missionary to China
Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (1840–1912) was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly forty years living and working there. As a teacher and evangelist, she made many trips into China’s interior to share the gospel with women and girls.
Image: Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (1840–1912)
Charlotte Digges Moon was born December 12, 1840 to affluent parents who were staunch Baptists, Anna Maria Barclay and Edward Harris Moon. She was fourth in a family of five girls and two boys. She grew up on her family’s 1,500-acre tobacco plantation called Viewmont, near Scottsville, Virginia. When Moon was thirteen, her father died in a riverboat accident.
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.
A Founder of Stanford University
Jane Lathrop Stanford, together with her husband Leland, founded Stanford University in 1891. The university was created as a memorial to their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who died of typhoid fever at age 15. After her husband’s death in 1893, she operated the university until her death in 1905.
Image: Leland, Jane and Leland, Jr. in 1880
Jane Elizabeth Lathrop was born August 25, 1828 in Albany, New York, to Dyer and Jane Ann Shields Lathrop, the third of six children. She was educated at home, and briefly attended the Albany Female Academy. Jane married lawyer Leland Stanford September 30, 1850, and moved to Port Washington, Wisconsin, where Leland had established a law practice.
Ohio was the Promised Land
According to Ohio State University history professor Wilbur Siebert, Ohio had the most estensive Underground Railroad network of any other state, with an estimated 3000 miles of routes used by runaways. There were more that twenty points of entry on the Ohio River, and as many as ten exit points along Lake Erie.
Image: Underground Railroad Monument
Created by Cameron Armstrong at Oberlin College
The Underground Railroad did not run on tracks, nor was it under ground. The word underground was used because helping escaped slaves was illegal and must be kept secret. The word railroad spawned other terms to describe people and places associated with the practice of assisting runaway slaves:
• Slaves are cargo or passengers.
• Hiding places or safe houses are stations.
• Guides leading the fugitives to the next stop are conductors.
• People helping the escaping slaves, but not guiding them, are agents.
• People providing financial resources for these activities are stockholders.
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.