Sojourner Truth

American Women Abolitionists: Freedom Fighters I

Abolitionist Movement in Philadelphia In the 1830s, female antislavery societies circulated and gathered signatures on antislavery petitions, held public meetings, organized fundraising events, and financially supported improvements in free black communities. Many of these organizations focused on submitting signed petitions to the U.S. Congress as a top priority in their campaigns to end slavery. Women were not yet allowed to vote; therefore, petition drives were one of the few forms of political expression available to female abolitionists. Petition campaigns drew women out of their homes and into their neighborhoods where they conducted massive door-to-door campaigns and then sent the signed documents to the U.S. Congress. Between 1834 and 1850, these women sent thousands of these petitions to Washington DC, causing…

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Anna Murray Douglass

Anna Murray Douglass

Wife of Former Slave Frederick Douglass Anna Murray Douglass was an American abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and the first wife of orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Her life illustrates the challenges faced by women who marry famous men. Early Years Anna Murray was born free to Bambarra and Mary Murray in Denton, Maryland in 1813. Anna was ambitious; by the age of 17 she had moved to Baltimore and established herself as a laundress and housekeeper and was earning a decent income, especially for someone so young. Murray facilitated Frederick’s second escape attempt by providing money for a train ticket and a sailor’s disguise. She followed him to New York City, where they were married by the prominent…

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Abolitionist and Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe published more than 30 books, but it was her best-selling antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that brought her worldwide fame and a very secure place in history. She also wrote biographies, children’s text books, and advice books on homemaking and childrearing. The informal style of her writing enabled her to reach audiences that more scholarly works would not. Early Years Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut to the Rev. Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Foote Beecher; the sixth of 11 children. She was called Hattie by her brothers and sisters. Roxanna Beecher died when Harriet was only five years old, and her oldest sister Catharine became…

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Harriet Forten Purvis

Abolitionist and Suffragist Harriet Forten Purvis was an African-American abolitionist and suffragist who helped establish the first women’s abolitionist group for blacks and whites, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. She fought against segregation and for the right for blacks to vote after the Civil War. Early Years Harriet Davy Forten was born in 1810 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of wealthy African-American inventor and businessman James Forten and educator and abolitionist Charlotte Vandine Forten. Hers was the most well-known black family in the city, who, according to William Lloyd Garrison, “have few superiors in refinement, in moral worth, in all that makes the human character worthy of admiration and praise.”

Christiana Carteaux Bannister

African American Hairdresser Who Saved Slaves Image: Christiana Carteaux Bannister Painted by her husband, Edward Mitchell Bannister Christiana Carteaux Bannister was an African American abolitionist, philanthropist, and businessperson in New England in the mid-19th century. She met her husband, artist Edward Bannister, at her hair salon in Boston; the two were active in the Boston Underground Railroad helping runaway slaves reach the next station. Early Years She was born Christiana Babcock circa 1820 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island to African American and Narragansett Indian parents. Her African American grandparents most likely lived and died as slaves. Christiana’s parents were probably born after Rhode Island’s gradual emancipation act of 1784 was passed, and so gained complete freedom at the age of…

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Elizabeth Buffum Chace

Abolitionist, Suffragist and Philanthropist Elizabeth Buffum Chace was a tireless life-long activist in the Anti-Slavery, Women’s Rights, and Prison Reform movements of the mid-to-late 19th century. Following in the footsteps of her father, the first president of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, Chace helped found the Fall River Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835. Early Years She was born Elizabeth Buffum in Smithfield, Rhode Island on December 9, 1806 to Arnold Buffum and Rebecca Gould Buffum, whose families were among the oldest in New England. Elizabeth grew up in a household of anti-slavery Quakers and she spent a year studying at the Friends’ Boarding School in Providence in 1822.

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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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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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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Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

She Dedicated Her Life to Women’s Rights Susan Brownell Anthony was a feminist and reformer whose Quaker family was committed to social equality. She began collecting anti-slavery petitions when she was 17 and became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society at age 36. In 1869, Anthony, alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, and they played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Early Years Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts to Quaker Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read Anthony, who shared a passion for social reform. Daniel encouraged all of his children, girls as well as boys, to be self-supporting; he taught them business principles and gave them responsibilities at…

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