Confederate Women Spies

Women Spies for the South Although the exact number is unknown, it is speculated that several hundred women served as spies and smugglers for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Whatever their duties, these new jobs redefined their traditional roles as housewives and mothers and made them an important part of the war effort. Confederate military leaders actively recruited women for undercover operations, mainly because of their familiarity with local customs and geography. Many women spies in the South remained at home, supplying critical information about the daily activities of nearby soldiers and military leaders. Southern belles invited enemy officers to their parties, hoping to pick up some new tidbit of information. As the Civil War unfolded, there was…

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Catherine Beecher

A Pioneer in Women’s Education American author and educator, Catherine Beecher believed that a woman’s role as educator and moral guide for her family was the basis of a well-ordered society. While she might have balked at being called a feminist (she did not support suffrage), her new theories about a woman’s place contributed to a growing feminist attitude that a woman did not have to be weak and passive, but could be a strong and important member of her community. Early Years Catherine Beecher (also spelled Catharine) was born September 6, 1800 in East Hampton, New York to the prominent Beecher family, who greatly influenced American culture and politics during the late nineteenth century. Catherine was the eldest of…

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Ann Rutledge

Abraham Lincoln’s First Love Ann Rutledge was Abraham Lincoln’s first love. The two met while he was boarding at her family’s inn in New Salem, Illinois, and he fell for her charms. Ann’s death at the age of 22 left Lincoln severely depressed, the first of many such incidents in his often difficult life. Image: Lincoln and Ann Rutledge by Fletcher Ransom Early Years On January 7, 1813, Ann Mayes Rutledge was born near Henderson, Kentucky, the third of ten children born to Mary and James Rutledge. In 1829, her father co-founded the town of New Salem, Illinois, and constructed a dam, sawmill and gristmill. As business expanded, James Rutledge decided to lay out a town and sell lots of…

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Clara Foltz

California’s First Woman Lawyer Clara Shortridge Foltz deserves to be called California’s First Woman. She became the state’s first woman lawyer, but only after fighting to change the law that denied women the right to become lawyers. That was only the beginning of her many firsts. She was the first woman to serve as clerk of the judiciary committee of the state assembly, the first woman deputy district attorney in the United States, and the first to run for governor. Early Years Clara Shortridge was born July 16, 1849 in Lafayette, Indiana, the only daughter of Elias and Talitha Harwood Shortridge. Trained as a lawyer, Elias Shortridge turned instead to preaching and in 1860 became pastor for a church in…

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Frances Sargent Osgood

Frances Sargent Osgood was one of the most popular women writers and poets of the mid-nineteenth century. Though some critics berated her writing as overly sentimental, Osgood achieved a wide readership and her fame was based on her success as an author, not merely for her connection to Edgar Allan Poe. Image: Frances Sargent Osgood and Edgar Allan Poe (painting of Poe by Fanny’s husband) Early Life Frances Sargent Locke was born on June 18, 1811 in Boston, Massachusetts to Joseph Locke, a wealthy merchant, and his second wife Mary. Fanny, as she was known, spent her early years in Hingham, Massachusetts, and probably received her formal education at home by private tutors, but she also attended the Boston Lyceum…

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Clara Harris Rathbone

Witness to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln Clara Harris was an American socialite. Harris and her then fiance Henry Rathbone were the guests of President Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth fatally shot the President. Early Years Clara Harris was born on September 9, 1834 in Albany, New York, one of four children of Senator Ira Harris and his first wife Louisa Tubbs Harris. Clara’s mother died 1845. On August 1, 1848, Ira Harris married widow Pauline Rathbone, who had two sons, Jared and Henry. From the ages of 13 and 11 respectively, Clara and Henry were raised in the same household. To their parents’ dismay, the two…

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Matilda Hoffman

Washington Irving’s One and Only Love Though she died very young, Matilda Hoffman made such a deep impression on the young American author Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) that he mourned her passing for the rest of his life. Decades later, the mere mention of her name left him speechless. Sarah Matilda Hoffman was born in 1791, daughter of Josiah Ogden and Mary Colden Hoffman. Matilda, as she was known, grew up in Manhattan and Albany, New York. Her mother died when she was six years old and her father married Maria Fenno five years later and began a second family. Maria was only ten years older than Matilda.

Jane Currie Blaikie Hoge

Civil War Nurse and Relief Worker Jane Currie Blaikie Hoge was a Civil War nurse, sanitary reformer and relief worker who is best remembered for her impressive organizational skills in providing medical supplies and other items to Union soldiers during the Civil War. After seeing some of the deplorable conditions suffered by the troops, Hoge became a leader in sanitary reform, which included activities such as collecting and distributing food, clothing, and medical and hospital supplies. She was also active in recruiting nurses for the army. Early Years Jane Currie Blaikie was born on July 31, 1811 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of George Blaikie, a wealthy merchant, and Mary Monroe Blaikie. Jane was educated at the Young Ladies’ College,…

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Emma LeConte

Witness to the Burning of Columbia, South Carolina Emma Leconte was only seventeen years old when she recorded in her diary the systematic burning of Columbia, SC during General Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign. During the war Emma remained in the city with her mother, while her father Joseph LeConte, a former professor at South Carolina College, worked as a chemist in the Confederate States Nitre and Mining Bureau attempting to make gunpowder for the Confederate army. After completing his famous March to the Sea by capturing Savannah, Georgia in December 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman began planning his invasion of South Carolina. Emma LeConte began writing a diary on December 31, and her first entry leaves no doubt about her…

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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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