Elizabeth Cady Stanton

One of the First Feminists in the United States Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) was a social reformer, editor, writer and leading figure in the early women’s rights movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, calling for a full spectrum of rights for women, was presented at the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. For many years thereafter Stanton was the architect and author of the movement’s most important strategies and documents. Image: Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1856, with daughter Harriot Elizabeth Cady was born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York. The daughter of a lawyer who made no secret of his preference for another son, she showed at an early age her desire to excel in intellectual and other ‘male’…

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Lucretia Mott

One of the First American Feminists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where the two discussed the need for a convention about women’s rights. Mott and Stanton then became the primary organizers of the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848 – the first women’s rights meeting ever held in the United States. Childhood and Early Years Lucretia Coffin was born on January 3, 1793, to Quaker parents in the seaport town of Nantucket, Massachusetts. She was the second child of seven by Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger Coffin. In 1804, the Coffins moved to Boston, where Thomas was an international trader with warehouses and wharves. He bought…

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Julia Ward Howe

One of the First Feminists in the United States Julia Ward Howe, little known today except as author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was famous in her lifetime as a poet, essayist, lecturer, reformer and biographer. She worked to end slavery, helped to initiate the women’s movement in many states, and organized for international peace – all at a time, she noted, “when to do so was a thankless office, involving public ridicule and private avoidance.” Image: Portrait of Julia Ward Howe By John Elliott and William Henry Cotton Julia Ward was born in New York City on May 27, 1819, the fourth of seven children born to Samuel Ward and Julia Rush Cutler Ward. Her father was…

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Varina Davis

First Lady of the Confederate States of America Varina Davis was the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War, and she lived at the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia during his term. After the war she became a writer, completing her husband’s memoir, and writing articles and eventually a regular column for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, the New York World. Image: Varina Davis in 1849 By John Wood Dodge Varina Howell was born on May 7, 1826, at The Briars near Natchez, Mississippi, where her parents, William Burr Howell and Margaret L. Kempe, were visiting relatives. Her father, who fought in the War of 1812, settled in Natchez and married Kempe, a Virginia native whose father was…

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Mary Todd Lincoln

First Lady of the United States 1861-1865 Mary Todd Lincoln supported her husband throughout his presidency, and witnessed his fatal shooting at nearly point blank range at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. Mary’s life was difficult after her husband was assassinated; she suffered from depression and mental anguish, which led to her being hospitalized for a time. Image: Mary Todd Lincoln in 1846 Mary Todd was born on December 13, 1818, in Lexington, Kentucky, the fourth of seven children born to banker Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth Parker Todd. Robert Todd provided his children from two marriages with social standing and material advantages. When Mary was seven, her mother died. Mary’s father remarried to Elizabeth Humphreys in 1826. This…

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Lucretia Garfield

Wife of Union General James A. Garfield Lucretia Rudolph was born on April 19, 1832, in Hiram, Ohio, the eldest of four children of Zebediah Rudolph, a prosperous carpenter-farmer, and Arabella Mason Rudolph. Her family were devout members of a religious sect called the Disciples of Christ. Lucretia’s father was a leader in both the business and religious communities. Her parents firmly believed in the importance of education, and insisted that their daughter attend school. Although Lucretia was a sickly child, she received a thorough education. She liked school and was a very good student, and at a young age she developed a love of literature that would last throughout her life. Education Lucretia attended Garrettsville Public Grammar School in…

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Eliza Johnson

First Lady of the United States Eliza Johnson was the wife of Andrew Johnson, who became the 17th President of the United States on the morning of April 15, 1865 – after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Due to ill health, Mrs. Johnson left the social duties of the First Lady to her daughter Martha Johnson Patterson, but was a close confidante to the President during his years in the White House. Eliza McCardle was born October 4, 1810, at Leesburg, Tennessee, the only child of John and Sarah Phillips McCardle. Eliza lost her father when she was still a small child, and was raised by her widowed mother in Greeneville, Tennessee. After her father’s death, Eliza McCardle helped her…

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Rebecca Cole

Women in Medicine: Second African American Female Doctor In 1867, Rebecca Cole became the second African American woman to receive an M.D. degree in the United States. Despite incredible sexism and racism, Cole persevered as a doctor, becoming a tireless advocate for medical rights for the poor, particularly for black Americans who were mostly ignored by the white medical establishment. Image: Drawing of Dr. Rebecca Cole The second of five children, Rebecca Cole was born on March 16, 1846 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents’ names are not known. Rebecca and her siblings received excellent educations, allowing them to obtain work other than the domestic service or manual labor in which most African Americans of that time were employed. Cole excelled…

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Dorothea Dix

Founder of the First Mental Asylums in the U.S. Dorothea Dix Superintendent of Union Nurses Dorothea Dix was one of the most influential women of the nineteenth century. A noted social reformer, she also became the Union’s Superintendent of Nurses during the Civil War. The soft-spoken yet autocratic crusader spent more than 20 years working for improved treatment of mentally ill patients and for better prison conditions. Early Years Dorothea Lynde Dix, daughter of Mary and Joseph Dix, was born in the tiny village of Hampden, Maine, on April 4, 1802. Her father, an itinerant preacher and publisher of religious tracts, had married against his parents’ wishes. He had left their home in Boston to settle in what was then…

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Clara Barton

Civil War Nurse, Educator and Humanitarian Clara Barton – pioneer teacher, government clerk and nurse – is one of the most honored women in American history. She began teaching school at a time when most teachers were men. She was among the first women to gain employment in the federal government. Barton risked her life when she was nearly 40 years old to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. Then, at age 60, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and led it for the next 23 years. Childhood and Early Years Clara Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas day, 1821, in Oxford, MA, to Stephen and Sarah Barton. Clara’s father was…

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