Mary Stafford Anthony

Educator and Suffragist Mary Stafford Anthony was the youngest sister of the famous social reformer and feminist Susan B. Anthony. Often overshadowed by her older sibling, Mary was a suffragist and educator who served as the first female school principal in western New York. She played an active role in several social reform organizations, including the New York Women’s Suffrage Association. Image: Mary Stafford Anthony At about 25 years of age Early Years Mary Stafford Anthony was born April 2, 1827 to Daniel and Lucy Read Anthony in Battenville, New York. Her parents had different religious beliefs; he was a liberal Quaker abolitionist. Although Lucy was a Baptist in her younger years, the Anthony children were raised as Quakers. Anthony…

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Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith

Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Activist Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith and her husband Gerrit Smith were wealthy activists and philanthropists who committed themselves to the movement to end slavery in 1835. They were prominent members of antislavery societies in New York State and on a national level. Image: Gerrit and Ann Fitzhugh Smith Mansion This house was a refuge for the many escaped slaves who received food and comfort on their journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Early Years Ann Carroll Fitzhugh was born January 11, 1805. Her father William Fitzhugh, a colonel in the Continental Army, built a home near Chewsville, Maryland which he called The Hive because of the many activities carried on by his twelve children and…

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Civil War Hospitals in Washington DC

Caring for the Wounded in Our Nation’s Capital Federal General Hospitals The title of United States Army General Hospital applied to facilities where soldiers from any military unit, unlike Division or Corps Hospitals. Image: Harewood Hospital Washington DC From 1861 through 1865, General Hospitals treated more than one million soldiers with a mortality rate of only eight percent, the lowest ever recorded for military hospitals and better than many civilian facilities. Washington’s sixteen General Hospitals comprised nearly 30,000 beds. Harewood General Hospital In 1852 financier William Wilson Corcoran purchased 191 acres to use as a country estate east of the Seventh Street Turnpike and north of what is now McMillan Reservoir. In 1862 Harewood Hospital was built on Corcoran’s property…

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Lucy Stone

Pioneer Women’s Rights Activist Lucy Stone spoke out against slavery and for women’s rights at a time when it was not popular for women to speak in public, and she was the first woman to keep her maiden name after she was married. Her name is often overlooked in the history of the fight for women’s suffrage, but this trailblazer achieved several firsts for women, particularly in Massachusetts. The Woman Question In 1836, at age eighteen, Lucy Stone began noticing newspaper reports of a controversy that some referred to as the woman question. What was woman’s proper role in society? Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison asked to women to circulate antislavery petitions and send the signatures to Congress. Many women responded,…

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Mary Phinney

Civil War Nurse Also known as Mary Phinney von Olnhausen, Mary Phinney was the widow of a Prussian nobleman when she served as a Civil War nurse at the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. Her journals, published as Adventures of an Army Nurse in Two Wars, give a glimpse into the life of a Union nurse. Early Years Mary Phinney was born February 3, 1818 in Lexington, Massachusetts to lawyer Elias Phinney and Catherine Barlett Phinney, the daughter of a doctor. Mary was well educated at several academies. Mary received an excellent education at the Lexington Academy and Smith’s Academy in Waltham, and she worked on the family farm. In 1849, Elias Phinney died and the family sold the…

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Meta Brevoort

First American Woman to Climb the Matterhorn Meta (Marguerite Claudia) Brevoort was born November 8, 1825 in New York. She spent her early years in a Paris convent school. She was an American mountain climber who waited until she was about 40 to become a mountaineer. With her nephew and and dog Tschingel, she was the first climber to ascend several peaks in the Dauphine Alps of southeastern France, an unexplored region at that time. She was one of a small band of women who blazed a trail in the Alps for climbers who came after her. Image: The Tschingel Company in 1874 Left to right: Christian Almer, Ulrich Almer, Meta Brevoort with the dog Tschingel and her nephew William…

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Ann Annis and the Sinking Sultana

Survivor of the Worst U.S. Marine Disaster Late in April of 1865, the Mississippi River stood at flood stage. Four years of war had ruined many levees, and the foaming water was over the banks for miles. More people died in the sinking of the steamboat Sultana than on the Titanic 47 years later, yet the tragic story is rarely mentioned in history books. Newspaper reports covered the latest event in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln: John Wilkes Booth had been killed at a Virginia farm the previous day – April 26, 1865. Marriage and Family At the age of 24 Ann met a young sea captain by the name of James Laird. They were married on December 29,…

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Romantic Friendship

Women Living Happily With Women A romantic friendship is a very close but non-sexual relationship between same-sex friends who often shared a degree of physical closeness like kissing, hugging, holding hands, and sharing a bed. Such friendships offered emotional support and companionship in a society where women had few freedoms. Many of these women later left the romantic friendship and married men. Women in romantic friendships usually lived together, in a world where women had few choices as to where they must live. As long as they remained single and had no other arrangements, they were forced to live with a male family member – father, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin. As they aged, they were often shuttled from household to…

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Black Women Before the Civil War

African American Women in Antebellum America Amid the harshness of slavery, American women of African descent managed to preserve the culture of their ancestry and articulate their struggles. Black female poets and writers emerged throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Many prominent free black women in the North were active in the Abolitionist Movement. Slave Women Enslaved women in every state of the antebellum Union undoubtedly considered escaping from bondage, but relatively few attempted it – often to avoid splitting up their families. Some bought their liberty with hard-earned money; others filed freedom suits and were declared free by the courts. Historian Deborah Gray White explains the life of slave women: “Black in a white society, slave in a…

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Eliza Greatorex

Painter, Illustrator and Pen and Ink Artist Eliza Greatorex was a noted painter of landscapes and cityscapes; she was especially known for her pen and ink drawings of New York and European scenes. She was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Design, one of America’s first women illustrators, and one of the earliest women artists to reproduce scenes of Colorado in pen and ink drawings. Image: Portrait of Eliza Pratt Greatorex By Ferdinand Thomas Lee Boyle (1869) Credit: National Academy of Design, New York Early Years Eliza Pratt was born December 25, 1819 in Manorhamilton, Ireland, and she emigrated to New York City with her family in 1840. In 1849 she married Henry Wellington Greatorex, a composer…

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