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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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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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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Susan B. Anthony

One of the First American Feminists and Women’s Rights Activist Susan B. Anthony played a pivotal role in the 19th century women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements in the United States. Working closely with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony was a primary organizer, lecturer and writer for the movements, especially the first phases of the long struggle for women’s right to vote. She traveled the United States, averaging 75 to 100 speeches per year. Image: Susan B. Anthony on the Occasion of her 80th Birthday, 1900 By Sarah J. Eddy Childhood and Early Years Susan Brownell Anthony was born on February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts and raised in a Quaker family with long activist traditions. She was the second oldest…

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Belva Lockwood

One of the First Women Lawyers in the United States Belva Lockwood (1830–1917) was the first woman admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court when she pursuaded Congress to open the federal courts to women lawyers in 1879, and the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. She was also active in working for women’s rights and overcame many social and personal obstacles related to gender restrictions. Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1888 on the ticket of the National Equal Rights Party and was the first woman to appear on official ballots. Born Belva Ann Bennett on October 24, 1830 in Royalton, New York, she was the daughter of farmers Lewis Johnson Bennett…

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Maria Mitchell

One of the First Women Scientists in the United States Maria Mitchell (1818–1889) was an American astronomer who discovered a comet in her telescope in 1847, which became known as the Miss Mitchell’s Comet and brought her international fame. She was the first professor appointed at the new Vassar College and the first acknowledged woman astronomer in the United States. Image: Maria Mitchell with her students Early Years Maria (pronounced ma-RY-ah) Mitchell was born August 1, 1818 on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, daughter of Quakers William and Lydia Coleman Mitchell. She had nine brothers and sisters. Her mother’s side of the family traced its ancestry to Benjamin Franklin. The Quaker religion taught intellectual equality between the sexes, and the…

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Emily Dickinson

One of the Top Women Poets in the United States Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is considered the most original 19th century American poet. She is noted for her unconventional broken rhyming meter and use of dashes and random capitalization as well as her creative use of metaphor and overall innovative style. She was a deeply sensitive woman who explored her own spirituality, in poignant, deeply personal poetry, revealing her keen insight into the human condition. Image: A photo dated 1860 believed to be Emily Dickinson Emily the Daughter Emily Dickinson was born December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was the second child born to Emily Norcross and Edward Dickinson, a Yale graduate, successful lawyer and United States Congressman. While Emily…

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Lucy Webb Hayes

First Lady and Wife of Union General Rutherford B. Hayes Lucy and Rutherford B. Hayes Circa 1877 Lucy Webb Hayes (1831-1889) was First Lady of the United States and the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, but prior to his presidency, Hayes was a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. Lucy’s kindness and great moral courage contributed greatly to her husband’s successful military and political careers. Early Years Lucille Webb, born August 28, 1831, was the daughter of Dr. James Webb and Maria Cook Webb of Chillicothe, Ohio. Though he was originally from Kentucky, Dr. Webb and his family were highly opposed to slavery. After inheriting several slaves from his aunt, he returned to his family home…

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Angelina Grimke

Abolitionist and One of the First Women to Speak in Public in the United States Angelina Grimke was a political activist, abolitionist and supporter of the women’s rights movement. Her essay An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1836) is the only written appeal made by a Southern woman to other Southern women regarding the abolition of slavery. It was received with great acclaim by abolitionists, but was severely criticized by her former Quaker community, and was publicly burned in South Carolina. Early Years Angelina Emily Grimke was born on November 26, 1805, in Charleston, South Carolina, to Mary Smith Grimke and John Faucheraud Grimke, a judge, planter, lawyer, politician and owner of a thriving cotton plantation. The…

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