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.”

Civil War Nurses for the Union I

Nurses Who Served the Union Army Thousands of women served as volunteer nurses during the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, nurses were merely volunteers who showed up at military hospitals. However, Union officials soon saw the need for an organized nursing corps, and they appointed Dorothea Dix Superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union Army in June 1861. Image: Alice Farmer Risley receiving a kiss from a veteran (1936) Alice Farmer Risley Alice Farmer was born in Wilmington, Ohio on November 1, 1847. In fall 1859, the family relocated to New Iberia in the Bayou Teche region of Louisiana, where her father was a basket maker. As Unionists, the Farmers were not well accepted after the Civil…

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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.

Civil War Hospitals in Alexandria

Union Military Hospitals in a Southern Town Image: Photograph of Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War Credit: Library of Congress On May 24, 1861, Union troops crossed the Potomac River and occupied Alexandria, Virginia – from the first days of the Civil War to the last. This occurred just one day after its citizens had voted to have their state join the Confederacy. Alexandria was the first Southern city to be occupied by Northern troops. Inadequate Medical Care When the Union and Confederate armies clashed on the fields near Manassas, Virginia in July 1861, the opposing sides had made few preparations to care for the wounded. When the routed Union Army came running back to Alexandria, no doctors or hospitals…

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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…

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Martha Thompson Pemberton

Wife of Confederate General John C. Pemberton Martha Thompson was born May 17, 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. Little is known about her life except through her husband’s activities. She likely moved with John to many posts during his career in the United States Army in the East and the West, especially in the 1850s. John Clifford Pemberton was born August 10, 1814 to Quaker parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager, John decided that he wanted and college education and began preparing for the entrance exam at the University of Pennsylvania. While at UP, Pemberton decided to study engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Using his family’s connection to President Andrew Jackson to secure an appointment.,…

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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…

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Women’s Mourning Customs in the Civil War

Honoring the Dead in Civil War America Image: Deep mourning clothing Veil on top of bonnet was lowered over face while in public Mourning is the process of grieving the death of a loved one. During the Civil War, Americans observed an elaborate set of rules that governed their behavior following the death of a spouse or relative. After the loss of a husband, the widow was not to leave home without full mourning garb and weeping veil for one year and a day. Mourning Etiquette During the 19th Century, most funerals were held in the home. In preparation for visitation and funeral services, the home of the deceased would show the community that there had been a death in…

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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…

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Lions of the Round Top

Union and Confederacy Contest the High Ground at Gettysburg Image: Lions of the Round Top Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 By Don Troiani After his troops had endured several charges, Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain decided that a countercharge might catch the Confederates off guard. This painting depicts the 20th Maine’s desperate bayonet charge down the slopes of Little Round Top. At the center of the painting, Colonel Chamberlain of the 20th Maine confronts Confederate Colonel William Oates of the 15th Alabama. Little Round Top On July 2, 1863, Union Commander General George Meade ordered his chief engineer, General Gouverneur Warren, to climb the boulder-strewn hill locals called Little Round Top and assess the situation there. Warren noticed the flash…

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