Almira Phelps

Educator and Author of Science Textbooks Almira Phelps was a 19th century educator and author who published several popular science textbooks, the most famous of which was Familiar Lectures on Botany (1829). Although it was received with condescension by male scientists, this book introduced a new style of science book for young students and influenced women to study the natural sciences. She wrote textbooks in all major fields of science except astronomy. Almira Hart was born on July 15, 1793, in Berlin, Connecticut, the youngest of seventeen children. She grew up in a family of intellectuals who prized independent thinking, and received much of her education at home, where her siblings debated literature and politics. She was also an avid…

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Delia Bacon

Woman Who Thought Shakespeare Was a Fraud Delia Bacon was an American author and playwright who is best know today for her theory that William Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by a group of British men, including Francis Bacon (no relation), Sir Walter Raleigh and others. Early Years Delia Salter Bacon was born on February 2, 1811 on what was then the frontier in Tallmadge, Ohio, the daughter of a minister, who left New Haven for the wilds of Ohio in pursuit of a vision. In 1817 her father went bankrupt and the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and her father died soon after. All six children were promptly farmed out to friends of the family. Delia was lucky enough…

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Mary Gove Nichols

Author and Leader in the Health Reform Movement Though little known today, Mary Gove Nichols was once one of the most influential women in America, a radical social reformer and pioneering feminist who preached equality in marriage, free love, spiritualism, the health risks of corsets and masturbation, the benefits of the water cure and the importance of happiness. Image: Mary Gove Nichols, as drawn by her daughter Elma Gove, 1853 Mary Neal was born on August 10, 1810 in Goffstown, New Hampshire. In 1822 her favorite older sister died and the family moved to Craftsbury, Vermont. Mary’s education came in spurts in various small town schools, but she was a voracious reader and by her teens she was writing stories…

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Elizabeth Margaret Chandler

Advocate of the Immediate Abolition of Slavery Elizabeth Margaret Chandler was a noted author and abolitionist poet in the early 19th century who became the first woman in America to make the abolition of slavery the principal theme in her writing. Her brief life was marked by a series of literary achievements that can only be described as impressive, given the virtual invisibility of women at that time. Childhood Elizabeth Margaret Chandler was born December 24, 1807 in Centre, Delaware to Thomas and Margaret Evans Chandler. She had two older brothers, William Guest and Thomas. The Chandlers were members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and they lived the strict, orderly and disciplined life of a Quaker family.

Caroline Kirkland

Author, Educator and Magazine Editor Caroline Kirkland (1801–1864) was a relatively early American writer, and author of three books about frontier days on the Michigan frontier. As an editor, Kirkland demonstrated a strong commitment to realism in the materials she accepted for publication and considerable critical skill in her reviews, including an enthusiastic response to Herman Melville’s early books. On January 11, 1801 Caroline Mathilda Stansbury was born into a middle class family in New York City, where she spent most of her childhood and adolescence. She was the oldest of eleven children born to Samuel and Eliza Alexander Stansbury. Caroline grew up in a loving and tolerant family and enjoyed many advantages as a girl. Her mother was herself…

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Sarah Grimke

Sarah Grimke helped pioneer the antislavery and women’s rights movements in the United States. The daughter of a South Carolina slave-holder, she began as an advocate for the abolition of slavery, but was severely criticized for the public role she assumed in support of the abolitionist movement. In Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman (1838), Grimke defended the right of women to speak in public in defense of a moral cause. Childhood and Early Years Sarah Moore Grimke was born on November 26, 1792, in Charleston, South Carolina. She was the eighth of fourteen children and the second daughter of Mary and John Faucheraud Grimke, a wealthy plantation owner who was also an attorney…

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Sarah Helen Whitman

Sarah Helen Whitman was a poet, essayist and fiancee of author Edgar Allan Poe. Whitman and Poe were engaged, and had her family not interfered in the relationship, they might have married. She was also active in the women’s suffrage movement in Rhode Island as well as in other efforts at social reform. Sarah Helen Power was born in Providence, Rhode Island on January 19, 1803, six years to the day before Edgar Allan Poe. Reading from an early age, Sarah was given a good education. She began writing poetry while at school, and beginning in the 1820s, her poetry appeared in newspapers, magazines, annuals and gift books.

Lydia Maria Child

Lydia Maria Child ranks among the most influential nineteenth-century women authors, and was one of the first American women to earn a living from her writing. She was renowned in her day as a crusader for truth and justice and a champion of excluded groups in American society – especially Indians, slaves and women. She then turned her energies to reform and became a leading abolitionist. Maria Child is probably best remembered today for the Thanksgiving children’s poem, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” But in her lifetime she published more than fifty books, plus short stories, poems and articles for periodicals. The North American Review, the leading literary periodical of the time, commented: “We are not sure that…

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Maria Stewart

First African American Woman to Lecture in Public Maria Stewart was an essayist, lecturer, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was the earliest known American woman to lecture in public on political issues. Stewart is known for four powerful speeches she delivered in Boston in the early 1830s – a time when no woman, black or white, dared to address an audience from a public platform. Childhood and Early Years She was born free as Maria Miller in 1803 in Hartford, Connecticut. All that is known about her parents is their surname, Miller. At the age of five, she lost both her parents and was forced to become a servant in the household of a white clergyman. She lived with…

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Anne Royall

First American Newspaperwoman Anne Royall (1769-1854) was a professional journalist, travel writer and the first newspaperwoman in the United States. At the age of 62, Royall published her own newspapers, Paul Pry (1831-1836) and The Huntress (1836-1854), from her home in Washington, DC. Childhood and Early Years She was born Anne Newport near Baltimore, Maryland on June 11, 1769. In 1772 her parents moved to the frontier of western Pennsylvania, where the family lived in a log cabin only eight feet broad and ten feet long. It contained a bed, a puncheon table and four stools.