Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad

The Savior of Hundreds of Slaves Image: Harriet Tubman Leading The Way After Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery, she returned to the South nineteen times and escorted hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of brave abolitionists and safe houses where runaway slaves could rest during their journey north to the free states or Canada. Backstory She was born Araminta Ross around 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland, on the plantation where her parents were enslaved. She later took her mother’s name as her own: Harriet. At age five or six, she was “hired out” by her master as a nursemaid for a small baby. She had to stay awake all night so that the baby…

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Women in Publishing

American Women Newspaper Publishers In the eighteenth century, women often worked alongside their husbands and brothers to publish a newspaper as a family business. In some cases, the wife became the publisher after her husband took ill or died, usually until a son could take over the paper. The influence of these women in publishing as active participants in the business is an enduring feature of newspaper history to the present day. Image: Elizabeth Timothy, America’s first female newspaper publisher, 1738 The South Carolina Gazette, Charleston, South Carolina 18th Century Women Publishers In the 1700s, women edited approximately 16 of the 78 small, family-owned weekly newspapers circulating throughout the American colonies. Even if they did not run the printing operations,…

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Civil War Women Spies for the North

Women Spies for the Union Image: Illustration of Sarah Emma Edmonds on horseback dodging a bullet fired by a southern woman. American society was still quite Victorian in many ways during the 1860s. Therefore, women spies were not as likely to be roughly interrogated or hanged when their true identity was discovered. These heroines exhibited great courage and were willing to suffer imprisonment or death in the service of their country. Elizabeth Van Lew From a wealthy family well-known in Richmond society, Elizabeth Van Lew was educated in Philadelphia and returned home an ardent abolitionist. Elizabeth was in her forties when the War began, and steadfastly loyal to the Union. She started writing to Federal officials to tell them about…

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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.

First Women Lawyers

Pioneer Women in the American Legal Profession Though women lawyers did not enter the legal profession until after the Civil War, that does not mean that women did not want to become lawyers in the antebellum period. It only means that there were no records kept. First, women were denied admission to law schools, and then they were denied permission to practice law. Either the legislature or the supreme court of each state determined the requirements for admission to the state bar, and as a rule they were not keen on changing the status quo. The entrance of American women into the practice of law formally began in 1869 when Arabella Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa bar. She was…

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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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Carrie McGavock

Civil War Nurse at the Battle of Franklin Carrie McGavock’s plantation home, Carnton, on the outskirts of Franklin, Tennessee, was used as a hospital after the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. She not only oversaw the care of the wounded in and around her house, she was responsible for making sure that nearly 1500 Confederates were reinterred in a cemetery on the McGavock property. Carrie Winder and John McGavock were married in December 1848. They had five children during the subsequent years, three of whom died at young ages: Martha, Mary Elizabeth and John Randal. The surviving children, Winder (1857-1907) and Hattie (1855-1932), witnessed the carnage at their home. Carnton Plantation The first construction on the property took…

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Dolley Madison and the War of 1812

First Lady Shows Her Mettle In the years leading up to America’s second war with Britain, President James Madison’s attempts to expand the country’s armed forces had been unsuccessful. In 1811, Congress had voted to abolish Alexander Hamilton‘s Bank of the United States, making it nearly impossible for the government to raise money. Therefore, the United States began the War of 1812 with no Army to speak of and only a handful of frigates and a fleet of gunboats for a Navy. Image: Engraving of Dolley Madison in 1812 Backstory The spring of 1812 was a time of great anxiety for James and Dolley Madison. Although neither of them welcomed war, they both realized it was inevitable. At first, the…

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Civil War Women Doctors

Civil War Women in Medicine Image: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker in the male attire she so loved to wear It is unclear how many women were working as physicians in the United States before the Civil War. At that time, medical students commonly studied under an established physician and did not attend a formal medical school. Many women learned their medical skills from husbands and fathers, and then assisted the men in private practice. During the antebellum years, an unknown number of women attended medical school dressed in male attire and went on to practice medicine, while still pretending to be men. Most women doctors served in a nursing capacity during the Civil War because they were not allowed to…

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Lydia Moss Bradley

Philanthropist and Founder of Bradley University Lydia Moss Bradley (1816–1908) was a wealthy philanthropist famous for her humanitarian works in Illinois and the independent management of her wealth. A pioneer in business and philanthropy, she founded Bradley Polytechnic Institute (now Bradley University) in 1897. Bradley and her accomplishments would be notable in any age, but to achieve all of this as an independent woman in the 19th century makes her simply amazing. Lydia Moss was born in Vevay, Indiana on July 31, 1816, the daughter of Zeally and Jennett Glasscock Moss. Prior to Lydia’s birth, Zeally Moss owned a plantation in Kentucky, but decided that he did not want to make a living based on slavery. He reportedly, “gave the…

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