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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Kate Field

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.

Early Years
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.

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Betsy Mix Cowles

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.

Early Years
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.

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Sarah Jane Woodson Early

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

Early Years
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.

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Lucy Colman

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.

Early Years
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.

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Charlotte Denman Lozier

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

Early Years
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.

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Jane Hunt

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.

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Women of Brook Farm

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.

The Philosophy
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.

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Amy Kirby Post

Abolitionist and Feminist in New York

In her own day, Amy Post was well known as a radical Quaker abolitionist and feminist. In the late 1960s, feminists began searching for heroines, women whose lives could provide guidance and inspiration to a new generation of female activists. Many women who were first rediscovered as models of strength, self-reliance and ingenuity were residents of western New York, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Blackwell.

Yet what made this region of New York, and Rochester in particular, a seedbed of female achievement was not only the few nationally renowned women who made a home there but also the dozens of women who day by day struggled to lead exemplary lives and to improve the lives of those around them. Amy Post was one of those women.

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