Alice Cary

Poet and Novelist in the Civil War Era Alice Cary (1820-1871) was a poet and author, and the sister of poet Phoebe Cary (1824–1871), who would become Alice’s lifelong companion. Alice Cary’s strong desire to be independent and to forge her own literary career prompted her to move alone to New York City at age 30. Cary was a most unusual 19th century woman who earned her own money, owned her own home and ran her own life – a true pioneer on many levels. A prolific writer, she ruined her health by the constant need to express herself. Alice Cary was born on April 26, 1820 on a farm in Hamilton County, Ohio, eight miles north of Cincinnati. This…

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Louisa Lane

Stage Actress and Theater Manager Louisa Lane (1820-1897) was an actress and theater manager of British birth, who commanded great respect as the first female manager of a major American theater. Known for her skill as a character actor and comedian, Louisa Lane was a stage star who ultimately became the matriarch of one of the greatest acting families of all time: the Barrymores. Her legacy lives on in her descendants, including her great-great-granddaughter Drew Barrymore. Louisa Lane was born January 10, 1820 in London, England, the daughter of actress and singer Eliza Trenter and actor and stage manager Thomas Frederick Lane. Her father died during her infancy, and Louisa’s first experience on the stage occurred when she was only…

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Sophia Hawthorne

Writer, Artist and Wife of Author Nathaniel Hawthorne Sophia Hawthorne (September 21, 1809 – February 26, 1871) was a writer and painter, and one of the famous Peabody sisters. She took up drawing and painting in 1829, and was an accomplished artist before her marriage to author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Sophia also published her journals and some of Nathaniel’s notebooks, which she edited and published after his death. Sophia Amelia Peabody was born September 21, 1809, in Salem, Massachusetts.Her father was dentist Nathaniel Peabody and her mother was the strong Unitarian Eliza Palmer Peabody. She had three brothers; her sisters were Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Mary Tyler Peabody (later wife of Horace Mann). With a father who had originally been a…

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Helen Hunt Jackson

First Woman Commissoner of Indian Affairs Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885) was a poet, novelist and essayist who became an advocate for Native American rights, fighting for improved treatment of Natives by the US government. She detailed the adverse effects of previous actions taken against Indian tribes in her history A Century of Dishonor (1881). Her novel Ramona dramatized the in Southern California and attracted considerable attention to her cause. Helen Maria Fiske was born October 18, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the daughter of Nathan Welby Fiske and Deborah Vinal Fiske, a writer. Nathan Fiske was professor of Language and Philosophy at Amherst College. Helen had a sister Anne and two brothers, both of whom died soon after birth. Deborah Fiske…

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Isabella Beecher Hooker

19th Century Women’s Rights Leader Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822–1907) was prominent in the movement to secure equal rights for women. She was a leader, lecturer and activist for women’s suffrage (the right to vote) who refused to succumb to society’s standards of what a woman’s role should be. When she discovered that a married woman had no legal rights independent of her husband, Hooker dedicated her life’s work to the empowerment of women. Early Years Isabella Holmes Beecher was born February 22, 1822 in Litchfield, Connecticut, the second child of the prominent family of Harriet Porter and the Reverend Lyman Beecher. As her father was called to new congregations, Isabella and her family followed him to Boston, and then Cincinnati….

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Victoria Woodhull

First Woman to Run for President of the United States Victoria Woodhull (1838– June 9, 1927) was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement. She was the first woman to own a brokerage firm on Wall Street, the first woman to start a weekly newspaper, and an activist for women’s rights and labor reform. At her peak of political activity in the early 1870s, Woodhull is best known as the first woman candidate for the United States presidency, which she ran for in 1872 for the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights. Childhood and Early Years Victoria California Claflin was born September 23, 1838, the seventh of ten children, in the rural frontier town of Homer, Ohio….

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Charlotte Cushman

Women in Theater: Dramatic Stage Actress Charlotte Cushman (1816-1876) was the most famous American actress of the nineteenth century, enjoying success on the stage in both the United States and Europe. Cushman’s acting career spanned four decades during which she performed many roles in plays by William Shakespeare, such as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Queen Katherine in Henry VIII and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. While performing in Washington, DC, Cushman’s audience included President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward. Charlotte Saunders Cushman was born in Boston, Massachusetts on July 23, 1816, the eldest of the four children of Elkanah and Mary Eliza Babbitt Cushman of Boston, Massachusetts. Her father rose from poverty to be a successful West…

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Helen Pitts Douglass

Educator, Feminist and Wife of Frederick Douglass Frederick and Helen Pitts Douglass Standing is Helen’s sister Eva Pitts Helen Pitts Douglass (1838–1903) was a teacher and feminist, and the second wife of former slave, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Frederick Douglass. She created the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association, and spent the last years of her life trying to build a memorial to her deceased husband, who is recognized as the father of the civil rights movement. Helen Pitts was born in 1838 in Honeoye, New York. She attended school at the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, New York, and graduated from Mary Lyon‘s Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College) in 1859. Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)…

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Mary Cassatt

First Woman Impressionist Artist in the United States Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She was the first American Impressionist artist and one of the greatest artists our country has ever produced. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt (pronounced ca-SAHT) often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and their children. Early Years Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born on May 22, 1844 in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. Her father Robert Simpson Cassatt was a successful stockbroker and land speculator and her mother Katherine Kelso Johnston came…

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Matilda Joslyn Gage

One of the First Feminists in the United States Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898) is the forgotten mother of the women’s rights movement. She was a contemporary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, with whom she co-authored the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage. Gage was always one of the more radical leaders of the movement and her writing focused on the significant accomplishments of women in invention, military affairs and in history. Early Years Matilda Joslyn Gage was born on March 24, 1826 in Cicero, New York. An only child, she was raised in a household dedicated to antislavery. Her father Dr. Hezekiah Joslyn was a nationally known abolitionist, and the Joslyn home was a…

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