Educator, Writer and Freethinker
Lucy Colman was an educator, writer and prolific social reformer who was actively involved in the abolitionist, women’s suffrage and Freethought movements. She also worked for racial justice and for the education of African Americans, accompanied Sojourner Truth on a visit to President Abraham Lincoln.
Lucy Newhall Danforth was born July 26, 1817 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, a descendant of John and Priscilla Alden [link] on her mother’s side. In her autobiography, she reported that from an early age, about six, she was horrified to learn of the existence of slavery, and bothered her mother with many questions about it. In 1824, Lucy’s mother died, and her mother’s sister Lois took over mothering tasks. Lois married Lucy’s father in 1833.
Delaware: A Short Path to Freedom
Delaware, the northernmost slave state, may be small but it played a big part in the lives of men and women fleeing from slavery. The city of Wilmington was the last station on the Underground Railroad (UGRR). With the slave state of Maryland on one side and the free states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey on the other, Delaware offered a direct route to freedom.
Image: Map of the United States showing routes traveled by fugitive slaves
Running the Underground Railroad
The system of aiding fugitives was established in the early 1800s, but the term Underground Railroad was not used to describe the network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves to escape to the North until the early 1830s. Aiding them in their flight were a string of abolitionists who helped them along their way, even though such actions violated state and federal laws.
Doctor, Feminist and Social Reformer
Charlotte Denman Lozier, physician, lecturer and professor at the New York Medical College for Women. A feminist, she campaigned for Women’s Suffrage and Workingwomen’s Associations as well as other progressive and charitable organizations.
Image: Dr. Charlotte Denman Lozier
Charlotte Denman was born March 15, 1844 to Selina and Jacob Denman in Milburn, New Jersey. Eventually a brother and sister were added to the family. Jacob had a strong desire to explore the frontier. When Charlotte was six, the family headed west. The 1850 Census reported them living in Napoleon, Michigan where her brother Robert was born. The family then moved on to Galena, Illinois.
At the time of their next journey to the West, Selina was pregnant again and after several weeks on the trail, she was showing signs of nervous strain as their lifestyle became more strenuous. Charlotte was a great help to her mother during these trying times.
Mission to Rescue Slaves in Washington, DC
Pearl was the name of a sixty-five foot Chesapeake Bay Schooner that was chartered by free African Americans for $100 to rescue 77 people from slavery in Washington, DC in 1848. The Pearl Incident was the largest recorded nonviolent escape attempt by slaves in United States history.
Image: Map of the Voyage
Like the nearby states of Maryland and Virginia, Washington, DC had a slave market and was part of the slave trade; because it was connected to the Chesapeake Bay by the Potomac River, slaves were shipped or marched overland through this city. Slaves worked as domestic servants and artisans for their owners, or were hired out to work for others. Free blacks and whites were active in the city, trying to abolish slavery and the slave trade. In 1848 free blacks outnumbered slaves in the District of Columbia by three to one.
Conductor on the Underground Railroad
Delia Webster was a teacher and abolitionist in Kentucky, where she was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Tried and convicted for helping runaway slaves in their escape to freedom, she was the first woman imprisoned for assisting fugitive slaves. Webster was also an artist, writer, and an independent woman, unusual for her time.
Image: Delia (front left) with her sisters, clockwise Martha, Mary Jane, and Betsey
Delia Ann Webster was born December 17, 1817, one of four daughters born to Benejah and Esther Bostwick Webster in Vergennes, Vermont. She attended the Vergennes Classical School, and began teaching school at 12 years of age. She then attended Oberlin College in Ohio, the first college in the United States to accept women and African American students. The town of Oberlin was called a “hotbed of abolitionism.”
An Organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention
Jane and Richard Hunt of Waterloo, New York were philanthropists who supported human rights causes. They hosted the tea party that led to the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848.
Image: Jane Hunt
Jane Clothier Master was born June 26, 1812 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Quakers William and Mary Master. At age thirty-three Jane Master married Richard Hunt in November 1845 and moved to Waterloo, New York, where she became a member of Richard’s extended family of Hunts, McClintocks, Mounts, Plants and Pryors. All of these families were Quakers who had migrated to Waterloo from Philadelphia or New York State.
A Massachusetts Commune
Image: Farmhouse at Brook Farm
Brook Farm, the most famous utopian community in America, was founded by Unitarian minister and author George Ripley and his wife Sophia in rural West Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1841. The Ripleys were interested in a more balanced society where equality was the norm and class distinction and wage discrepancy were not.
In October 1840, George Ripley announced to the Transcendental Club that he was planning to form a Utopian community. Brook Farm, as it would be called, was based on the ideals of Transcendentalism. Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was the center of the transcendental movement, setting out most of its ideas and values in a little book entitled Nature (1836) which represented at least ten years of intense study in philosophy, religion and literature.
Pioneer Scientist and Abolitionist
Graceanna Lewis was an early female natural scientist who became an expert in the field of ornithology (the study of birds). She is also remembered as an activist in the temperance, women’s suffrage and antislavery movements, and her home was a station on the Underground Railroad.
Image: Graceanna Lewis, circa 1865
Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA.
Graceanna Lewis was born August 3, 1821 on a farm in Chester County Pennsylvania, second of four daughters of Quaker farmers John Lewis and Esther Fussell Lewis. John died in 1824, leaving the children in the care of their mother, who endured a lengthy battle for control of the estate left to her by her husband.
Hawaiian Princess and Philanthropist
Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was a Hawaiian princess and the last direct descendant of the Royal House of Kamehameha. She is also remembered as one of the most remarkable philanthropists in the history of the Islands. Her bequest endowed the Kamehameha Schools, which specializes in educating the children of native Hawaiians.
Pauahi Paki was born December 19, 1831 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to high chiefs Abner Paki and Laura Konia Paki. She was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the warrior chief who united the Hawaiian islands under his rule in 1810. Pauahi was reared with strong Hawaiian values and a bicultural education. She was gifted in music, and known for her generosity and kindness.
Teacher of Runaway Slaves at Fortress Monroe
Mary Peake was a teacher, best known for starting a school for the children of former slaves in the summer of 1861, under the shade of a tree that would become known as the Emancipation Oak in present-day Hampton, Virginia. This makeshift outdoor classroom provided the foundation of what would become Hampton University.
Image: Mary Peake
In 1823, Mary Smith Kelsey was born free in Norfolk, Virginia. Her father was an Englishman “of rank and culture” and her mother was a free woman of color, described as light-skinned. When Mary was six, her mother sent her to the town of Alexandria (then part of the District of Columbia) to attend school while living with her aunt Mary Paine.