Jane McManus

First Female War Correspondent in the U.S. Jane McManus (1807–1878) was a single mother and journalist, an adventurer and the first female war correspondent in American history. Whether she was land speculating in Texas, behind enemy lines during the Mexican American War, filibustering for Cuba or Nicaragua or urging free blacks to emigrate to the Dominican Republic, McManus seldom took the easy path. No matter what name or pseudonym she was using at the time, Jane Eliza McManus Storm Cazneau was one of the most formidable women of the 19th century. She foresaw a nation with equal rights for all, in a world in which representative government was the norm rather than the exception. She was not just an advocate…

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Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix

Educator, Social Reformer and Humanitarian Dorothea Dix (1802–1887) was a social reformer, primarily for the treatment of the mentally ill, and the most visible humanitarian of the 19th century. Through a long and vigorous program of lobbying state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, Dix created the first generation of American mental hospitals. During the Civil War, she served as Superintendent of Army Nurses for the Union Army. Dorothea Lynde Dix was born on April 4, 1802 in Hampden, Maine. She was the first child of three born to Mary Bigelow Dix and Joseph Dix, an itinerant Methodist preacher. Her mother suffered from depression and was bedridden during most of Dorothea’s childhood. Her father was an abusive alcoholic. After her mother…

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Sarah Wentworth Morton

18th Century Poet and Writer Sarah Wentworth Morton, poet of the American Revolution, is remembered for the long, sentimental, narrative poems in which she considers the make-up of the new nation, inter-racial relationships and heroism, both male and female. In her own time she was renowned for her poetry about the virtues of freedom. Though too invested in the idea of submission to be a feminist, she had the status and role of women very much at heart. Sarah Apthorp was born in Boston, Massachusetts to the wealthy Boston merchant, James Apthorp and Sarah Wentworth Apthorp. She was baptized at King’s Chapel on August 29, 1759 (the exact date of her birth is unknown). Her family eventually numbered eleven children.

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft

Native American Author and Poet Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (1800-1842) was the first Native American literary writer. She was also the first known Indian woman writer, the first known American Indian poet and the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language. Now, critics speculate about the extent to which Jane also contributed to her husband’s writings, for which she was rarely given credit. So pensively joyful, so humbly sublime – this final line of her poem “Pensive Hours” aptly describes Schoolcraft’s writing. Childhood and Early Years Jane Johnston Schoolcraft was born on January 31, 1800 in Sault Ste. Marie in the upper peninsula of what is now the state of Michigan. Her Ojibwe name was Bamewawagezhikaquay, which…

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Lydia Sigourney

Poet, Author, Educator and Businesswoman Lydia Sigourney (1791–1865) was a popular poet, essayist and travel writer during the early and mid 19th century. Most of her works were published with just her married name Mrs. Sigourney. Her poetry, like her prose, was about public subjects – history, slavery, missionary work and current events – or treated personal matters, especially loss and death, as experiences common to all. In contrast to Emily Dickinson or Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sigourney wrote for popular consumption, and was among the first American women to establish a successful writing career. Childhood and Early Years Lydia Huntley was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on September 1, 1791, the only child of a gardener-handyman and his wife. Lydia’s commitments…

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Margaret Fuller

America’s First True Feminist Author, editor, and journalist, Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) holds a distinctive place in the cultural life of the American Renaissance. Literary critic, editor, author, political activist and women’s rights advocate – she was also the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. Her death at sea was a tragedy for her family and colleagues, and the loss of her many talents to womankind, then and now, is immeasurable. Childhood and Early Years On May 23, 1810, Sarah Margaret Fuller was the first-born child of Margarett Crane and Timothy Fuller, Jr. of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. A lawyer and a Republican…

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Susanna Rowson

Early American Educator, Novelist and Actress Susanna Rowson’s novel Charlotte Temple became the first bestseller in America when it was published in 1794 by Matthew Carey of Philadelphia. Rowson (1762–1824) was a British-American novelist, poet, textbook author, playwright and actress. She was also a pioneer in female education, opening the Academy for Young Ladies in Boston in 1797, offering an advanced curriculum to young ladies, and operating the school until her retirement in 1822. Childhood and Early Years Susanna Haswell was born in 1762 in Portsmouth, England to Royal Navy Lieutenant William Haswell and Susanna Musgrave Haswell, who soon died from complications of childbirth, an event that surely influenced Rowson’s fiction. Her father left Susanna in England in the care…

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Sarah Josepha Hale

Author, Editor and Champion of Women’s Education Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was America’s first woman editor and the author of many novels and poems, publishing nearly fifty volumes of work in her lifetime. President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1864 after Hale had spent 40 years campaigning for a national day of thanks. An early activist for women’s education and property rights and editor of the 19th century’s most successful woman’s magazine (Godey’s) – these are only a few of the many accomplishments of the extraordinary woman who is now unknown to most Americans. Childhood and Early Years Sarah Josepha Buell was born October 24, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire to Gordon and Martha Whittlesay Buell. A…

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Emma Willard

Writer and Educator of Young Women Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) was an educator and writer who dedicated her life to women’s education. She worked in several schools and founded the first school for women’s higher education, the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York. With the success of her school, she was able to travel across the country and abroad, to promote education for women. Willard pioneered the teaching of science, mathematics and social studies to young women. Childhood and Early Years Emma Hart was born on February 23, 1787 in rural Berlin, Connecticut. She was the sixteenth of seventeen children from her father, Samuel Hart, and his second wife Lydia Hinsdale Hart. Her father was a farmer who encouraged…

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Jarena Lee

First Woman Preacher in the AME Church Jarena Lee was a 19th century African American woman who left behind an eloquent account of her religious experiences, first published as The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee in 1836 and later revised and expanded as Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee in 1849. She was also the first woman authorized to preach by Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Childhood Jarena Lee was born on February 11, 1783 in Cape May, New Jersey to free but poor black parents. Because of the economic circumstances of her family, Lee was sent off to work as a live-in servant when she was just seven, “at the distance…

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