Elizabeth Packard

Advocate for the Rights of Married Women Elizabeth Packard was a social reformer whose experiences in a mental hospital began her quest for protective legislation for the insane and improved married women’s rights. She wrote numerous books and lobbied legislatures literally from coast to coast, advocating more stringent commitment laws, protections for the rights of asylum patients, and laws to give married women equal rights in matters of child custody, property and earnings. Marriage and Family Elizabeth Parsons Ware was born on December 28, 1816 in Ware, Massachusetts. At the insistence of her parents, she married minister Theophilus Packard on May 21, 1839. Like many other women of her era, Elizabeth settled into domestic life as a wife and mother…

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Mary Ellen Pleasant

Successful Businesswoman and Humanitarian Mary Ellen Pleasant was a civil rights activist and entrepreneur who used her fortune to further the abolitionist movement. She worked on the Underground Railroad in several states, including California during the Gold Rush and won significant civil rights in the courts, earning the name ‘Mother of Civil Rights in California.’ Mary Ellen Pleasant altered and embellished her story in several memoirs to offset the criticisms levied against her toward the end of her life, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. By her own account she was born Mary Ellen Williams on August 19, 1814, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an African American mother and Louis Alexander Williams, a well educated merchant from the Sandwich…

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Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott

Quaker Feminist and Social Activist Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was a Quaker minister, abolitionist and social reformer who dedicated her life to the goal of human equality. Mott was a major figure in the reform movements of the nineteenth-century: abolition, women’s rights, school and prison reform, temperance, peace and religious tolerance. Childhood and Early Years Lucretia Coffin was born on January 3, 1793 on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, the second of eight children born to Thomas and Anna Folger Coffin. At the age of thirteen, Lucretia was sent to the Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School in Millbrook, New York. There she learned of the horrors of slavery from visiting lecturers such as Elias Hicks, a well-known Quaker abolitionist.

Myrtilla Miner

Educator of African American Girls Myrtilla Miner (1815–1864) established the first school in Washington, DC to provide education beyond the primary level to African American girls in 1851 – at a time when slavery was still legal in the District of Columbia. Although the school also offered other courses, its emphasis from the outset was on training teachers. Miner’s progressive methods in education, her struggles against considerable opposition, and her dogged determination have earned her a place in American history. Childhood and Early Years Myrtilla Miner was born on March 4, 1815, near Brookfield, New York of humble parentage. Though always frail in health, she earned enough by working in the hop fields near her home to further her education….

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Maria Weston Chapman

Author and One of the First Female Abolitionists Maria Weston Chapman was a writer, editor, abolitionist, and right-hand woman of prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. She served as editor of the anti-slavery newspapers, the Non-Resistant and the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Although she shunned public speaking, Chapman organized bazaars and other fund-raising events for the movement, and was described by Lydia Maria Child as “one of the most remarkable women of the age.” Early Years Maria Weston was born on July 24, 1806 in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the eldest of eight children born to Warren and Anne Bates Weston, descendants of the Pilgrims. Maria’s birth was followed by those of Caroline in 1808, Anne in 1812, Deborah in 1814, Hervey in 1817,…

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Prudence Crandall

Connecticut Educator of African American Girls Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) was controversial for her education of African American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. In the fall of 1831, she opened a private school, which was boycotted when she admitted a 17-year-old African-American female student in fall 1833. This is widely regarded as the first integrated classroom in the United States. Crandall is Connecticut’s official State Heroine. Prudence Crandall was born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island on September 3, 1803 to a Quaker family. In 1820 her father moved the family to the small town of Canterbury, Connecticut. Most women during the early 1800s did not receive much education, but Quakers believed in equal education, regardless of gender. Prudence Crandall attended the New England…

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Abigail May Alcott

Social Reformer and Early Social Worker Abigail “Abby” May Alcott (1800–1877) was an abolitionist, women’s rights activist, pioneer social worker and one of the first paid social workers in the state of Massachusetts. Abigail was also the wife of transcendentalist philosopher and educator Bronson Alcott and mother of four daughters, including Civil War novelist Louisa May Alcott, providing the model for “Marmee” in Louisa May’s novel, Little Women. Early Years Abigail May was born October 8, 1800, the youngest child of Dorothy Sewall May and prominent Unitarian layman Joseph May. Abigail was given a largely informal education, though like the rest of her family, she was well-read. As a young adult she studied history, languages and science by her tutor…

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Angelina Grimke

Abolitionist and One of the First Women to Speak in Public in the United States Angelina Grimke was a political activist, abolitionist and supporter of the women’s rights movement. Her essay An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1836) is the only written appeal made by a Southern woman to other Southern women regarding the abolition of slavery. It was received with great acclaim by abolitionists, but was severely criticized by her former Quaker community, and was publicly burned in South Carolina. Early Years Angelina Emily Grimke was born on November 26, 1805, in Charleston, South Carolina, to Mary Smith Grimke and John Faucheraud Grimke, a judge, planter, lawyer, politician and owner of a thriving cotton plantation. The…

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Hannah Ropes

Head Matron at Union Hotel Hospital When her husband abandoned her, Hannah Ropes did not despair. She raised her two children, became an abolitionist and activist for social reform. She volunteered as a nurse during the Civil War and used her prominent social position to obtain enormous amounts of supplies for ill and wounded soldiers. Early Years Hannah Anderson Chandler was born June 13, 1809, in New Gloucester, Maine, the daughter and sister of prominent Maine lawyers. Hannah developed strong beliefs during her early years. Her religious faith was very strong, and she was passionately opposed to slavery. Hannah married educator William Ropes in 1834; they lived in Waltham, Massachusetts. Hannah gave birth to four children, two of whom lived…

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Harriet Tubman

Conductor on the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman was an African American abolitionist, humanitarian and Union spy during the Civil War. After escaping from slavery, she made thirteen missions back to the land of her servitude to rescue scores of slaves, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. Image: Painting by Paul Collins: Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad She was born Araminta Ross around 1820 the fifth of nine children born to slave parents, Harriet (“Rit”) Green and Benjamin Ross, in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As with many slaves in the United States, neither the exact year nor place of her birth was recorded, and historians differ as to the best…

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