Black Women Writers of the 19th Century

African-American Women Authors in Antebellum America Image: Middle-class black women who loved to read did not have many role models. Credit: Jeffrey Green Prior to the Civil War, the majority of African-Americans living in the United States were held in bondage. Although law forbade them, many found a way to learn to read and write. More African-Americans than we could have imagined published poetry, biographies, novels and short stories.

Emma Green

Young Nurse in a Large Military Hospital Image: Nurse Emma Green as played by Hannah James in the PBS film, Mercy Street. Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia Mercy Street In January 2016, PBS broadcast Mercy Street, a six-part series about the James Green family who lived in Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War. The Greens owned several properties in the area, including the opulent Mansion House Hotel. James’ teenaged daughter Emma Green served as a nurse there. The producers of the film also used the writings of nurse Mary Phinney who worked with Emma at the Mansion House Hospital. Early Years Emma Frances Green was the daughter of James Green, the wealthiest man in Alexandria, Virginia. Green owned several…

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Fidelia Bridges

She Painted the Art in Nature Fidelia Bridges was one of the most renowned artists of her time and one of the very few women artists who supported herself with her work. She was known for her delicately detailed nature paintings, which were published in books and magazines. Her paintings convey the joy she felt in birds and flowers. Image: Fidelia Bridges Dressed for a painting excursion c. 1864 She wore black in the winter, gray linen in the summer. Note the shorter dress with pants underneath. This style of dress is called the Bloomer costume, named for its designer, feminist Amelia Bloomer. Early Years Fidelia Bridges was born May 19, 1834, the daughter of sea captain Henry Gardiner Bridges…

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Black Women After the Civil War

African American Women in Postbellum America Image: A freed family on a plantation gathered for a photograph After the Civil War, African American women were promised a new life of freedom with the same rights provided to other American citizens. But the newly freed women in the South had little or no money, limited or no education and little access to it, and racism impacted every area of their lives. The transition from enslavement to freedom was a difficult and frightening one for most black women who emerged from enslavement knowing “that what they got wasn’t what they wanted; it wasn’t freedom, really.” The Civil War promised freedom to African American women, but as the Confederate Army and slaveowners fleeing…

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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.

Mary Cunningham Logan

Wife of Union General John A. Logan Image: John and Mary Cunningham Logan With children John Alexander Logan and Mary Logan Tucker Early Years Mary Simmerson Cunningham was born August 15, 1838 in Petersburgh, Boone County, Missouri, the daughter of Captain John and Elizabeth La Fontaine Cunningham. Her parents were of Irish-French ancestry. Mary’s maternal grandfather, La Fontaine, owned large tracts of land in Missouri that were farmed by slave labor, and her paternal grandfather was a slave owner in Tennessee. Shortly after her birth, Mary’s parents moved to southern Illinois where her father became registrar of the land office as well as an army officer. John Alexander Logan was born February 9, 1826 in what is now Murphysboro, Illinois….

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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…

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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.