Women of Brook Farm

A Massachusetts Commune Image: Farmhouse at Brook Farm Brook Farm, the most famous utopian community in America, was founded by Unitarian minister and author George Ripley and his wife Sophia in rural West Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1841. The Ripleys were interested in a more balanced society where equality was the norm and class distinction and wage discrepancy were not. The Philosophy In October 1840, George Ripley announced to the Transcendental Club that he was planning to form a Utopian community. Brook Farm, as it would be called, was based on the ideals of Transcendentalism. Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was the center of the transcendental movement, setting out most of its ideas and values in a little book entitled Nature (1836)…

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Lucretia Crocker

Pioneer Educator and Innovative Administrator As the first woman appointed to the Board of Supervisors of the Boston Public School System (1876), Lucretia Crocker pioneered the method of teaching mathematics and the natural sciences during her decade-long tenure. Earlier, she was among the first women elected to the Boston School Committee, and a strong advocate for higher education for women. Early Years Lucretia Crocker was born December 31, 1829 in Barnstable, Massachusetts on Cape Cod to Henry and Lydia Ferris Crocker. She was educated in the Boston Public Schools, and attended the State Normal School in West Newton, Massachusetts. Established by Horace Mann, it was the first state-supported school dedicated to training teachers in America. She graduated in 1850, but…

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Graceanna Lewis

Pioneer Scientist and Abolitionist Graceanna Lewis was an early female natural scientist who became an expert in the field of ornithology (the study of birds). She is also remembered as an activist in the temperance, women’s suffrage and antislavery movements, and her home was a station on the Underground Railroad. Image: Graceanna Lewis, circa 1865 Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA. Early Years Graceanna Lewis was born August 3, 1821 on a farm in Chester County Pennsylvania, second of four daughters of Quaker farmers John Lewis and Esther Fussell Lewis. John died in 1824, leaving the children in the care of their mother, who endured a lengthy battle for control of the estate left to her by her husband.

Euphemia Goldsborough

Confederate Nurse and Smuggler from Maryland Euphemia Goldsborough exemplifies the Southern woman committed to the Confederacy. Against all odds and at great risk to her own personal safety, she smuggled necessities into Southern hospitals and Northern prisons. Her story is one of courage, compassion and endurance. Image: Euphemia Goldsborough at age 38 Early Years Euphemia Goldsborough was born June 5, 1836 at Boston, the family farm on Dividing Creek in Talbot County, Maryland. Euphemia was one of eight children born to Martin and Ann Hayward Goldsborough. She studied at a girls’ boarding school in Tallahassee, Florida during the 1850s, and then joined her family at their new home in Baltimore, Maryland. Leading up to the Civil War, Marylanders had mixed…

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Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Hawaiian Princess and Philanthropist Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was a Hawaiian princess and the last direct descendant of the Royal House of Kamehameha. She is also remembered as one of the most remarkable philanthropists in the history of the Islands. Her bequest endowed the Kamehameha Schools, which specializes in educating the children of native Hawaiians. Early Years Pauahi Paki was born December 19, 1831 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to high chiefs Abner Paki and Laura Konia Paki. She was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the warrior chief who united the Hawaiian islands under his rule in 1810. Pauahi was reared with strong Hawaiian values and a bicultural education. She was gifted in music, and known for her generosity and kindness.

Mary Peake

Teacher of Runaway Slaves at Fortress Monroe Mary Peake was a teacher, best known for starting a school for the children of former slaves in the summer of 1861, under the shade of a tree that would become known as the Emancipation Oak in present-day Hampton, Virginia. This makeshift outdoor classroom provided the foundation of what would become Hampton University. Image: Mary Peake Early Years In 1823, Mary Smith Kelsey was born free in Norfolk, Virginia. Her father was an Englishman “of rank and culture” and her mother was a free woman of color, described as light-skinned. When Mary was six, her mother sent her to the town of Alexandria (then part of the District of Columbia) to attend school…

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Ida McKinley

First Lady of the United States Ida Saxton McKinley, wife of William McKinley, 25th President of the United States, was First Lady from 1897 to 1901. She and her husband developed a unique way of coping with her epileptic seizures during her public appearances, and the love they shared during the early years of happiness endured through more than twenty years of illness. Image: Ida McKinley Photograph from the 1896 Presidential Campaign Early Years Ida Saxton was born June 8, 1847 in Canton, Ohio, the second of three children born to Katherine DeWalt and James Saxton, a prominent Canton banker. The Saxtons were a prominent family in Canton: Ida’s grandfather founded the Ohio Repository, the first newspaper in Canton, and…

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Lucretia Clay

Wife of U.S. Senator Henry Clay Lucretia Hart was born March 18, 1781 in Hagerstown, Maryland into a wealthy and socially prominent family. She moved to Kentucky with her parents in 1784. Henry Clay was born on April 12, 1777, in Hanover County, Virginia to a middle-class family. Clay studied for the bar with the eminent George Wythe [link], and at age 20, moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where he developed a thriving practice and met his future wife. Image: Lucretia and Henry Clay After a brief courtship, Lucretia Hart married Henry Clay April 11, 1799 at her family home in Lexington, Kentucky. Though Lucretia was not physically attractive, neither was Clay. Far more important were her family connections, which placed…

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Black Civil War Nurses

African American Nurses in the Civil War Nursing was not a woman’s job before the Civil War, but by 1865, there were over 3,000 nurses serving the Union and Confederacy. In the North, most women nurses worked in military hospitals. Image: Black nurses with the 13th Massachusetts Infantry The 13th Mass fought in numerous battles, from the Shenandoah Valley to Bull Run to Antietam So many women volunteered as Union nurses that the U.S. government hired Dorothea Dix to serve as the superintendent of women nurses. African American nurses were not included in those numbers, nor were they recognized for their service for decades to come. Some were paid; many volunteered. During the Civil War, black women did serve as…

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Antebellum Slavery in Virginia

The first Africans in Virginia brought to Jamestown in 1619 were quickly purchased on the same terms as English indentured servants: after seven years of labor, they were free. By 1625, there were said to be twenty-three Africans serving in Virginia; twenty-five years later, there were 300. Image: Slaves Waiting For Sale in the Richmond Slave Market Oil Painting by Eyre Crowe Slavery in Colonial Virginia Blacks were not automatically slaves in early Virginia. Some held property, married and raised families outside the institution of slavery. Before 1660, most slaves in Virginia lived on plantations with two or three others, and most slaves were male. Interactions with whites were common and restrictions based exclusively on race were not rigid.