7.12.2017

Sarah Elizabeth Doyle

Pioneer in Women's Education

A thirty-six-year-old Rhode Island high school teacher and principal, Sarah Elizabeth Doyle was a founder of the coeducational Rhode Island School of Design (1877). In the mid-1890s, she became a leader of the Rhode Island Society for the Collegiate Education of Women, which sponsored the establishment of The Women's College at Brown University. This feminist and education reformer also ardently supported women's suffrage.

lifelong teacher in Rhode Island


Early Years

Sarah Elizabeth Doyle entered Providence High School during its initial enrollment in 1843. One of seven siblings, she completed her formal education in 1846 when she graduated from that school, and she dedicated the rest of her life to the advancement of higher education for women.

4.29.2017

First Women's Rights Activists I

Pioneers in the Fight for Women's Rights

women's education reformer
Activism consists of efforts to promote changes in society, politics, the economy, or the environment. Activism can be expressed through political campaigns, boycotts, confrontational strikes or street marches, or by simply writing letters to newspaper editors.

Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820)

Judith Sargent Murray was light years ahead of her time. Her ideas about women's education were extremely radical for the late 18th century. She believed that the idea that women were intellectually inferior to men stemmed from the way they were raised: boys were encouraged to learn while girls were neglected.

1.25.2017

The Forten Sisters

The Forten Women of Philadelphia


The Fortens were one of the most prominent black families in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Wealthy sailmaker James Forten and his wife Charlotte Vandine Forten headed the family; their daughters were: Margaretta, Harriet, and Sarah. The Fortens were active abolitionists who took part in founding and financing at least six abolitionist organizations. The Forten sisters were educated in private schools and by private tutors.

Image: Sisters by Keith Mallett

Margaretta Forten (1806-1875)

Margaretta was an African American abolitionist and suffragist. She worked as a teacher for at least thirty years. During the 1840s she taught at a school run by Sarah Mapps Douglass; in 1850 she opened her own school. Margaretta never married and lived with her parents as an adult. In time, she took on the responsibility of running of her parents' home on Lombard Street in Philadelphia, caring for her elderly mother and bachelor brothers Thomas and William.

12.18.2016

Sara Plummer Lemmon

Women in Science: California Botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon

created Santa Barbara's first library

After marrying botanist and Civil War veteran John Lemmon, Sara sold her library in Santa Barbara, California and traveled to Arizona for their honeymoon. Before returning home to California, Sara discovered and cataloged for the first time a variety of species native to the mountains and surrounding areas.

Image: Sara Plummer opened the Lending Library and Stationery Depot in March 1871.
Credit: Santa Barbara Independent

Early Years
Sara Plummer was born in New Gloucester, Maine, on September 3, 1836. She attended teachers college in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then moved to New York City, where she taught art at Grammar School No. 14 and studied at the Cooper Union. Miss Plummer also served as a nurse for a year or two during the Civil War. After Sara had suffered from a severe case of pneumonia, her doctor suggested she relocate to a more suitable climate.

12.07.2016

Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu

First Female Lighthouse Keeper in Florida

A lighthouse is a tower that emits a flashing beam of light from a system of lamps and lenses. They mark dangerous coastlines, shoals, or reefs, and guide pilots at sea into safe harbors. In the 19th century, they were vital lifelines to maintaining safety at sea.

St. Augustine Lighthouse
Image: St. Augustine Lighthouse, home of Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu
Built in 1700; aided mariners for 162 years.
Image shows the various stages of the lighthouse structure.
Photograph courtesy National Archives

Backstory
Don Juan Ponce de Leon discovered La Florida, the Land of Flowers, in 1513. Approximately fifty years later, Spain attempted to colonize Florida by dispatching Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to the area. Menendez arrived off the Florida coast in 1565 and established the fledgling colony of St. Augustine, the oldest permanent European settlement in North America. Near St. Augustine, the Matanzas River flows past barrier islands named Anastasia and Conch and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

11.24.2016

Eleanor Creesy, Navigator

Female Navigator of the World's Fastest Clipper Ship

Eleanor Creesy was the navigator of Flying Cloud, a clipper ship that set the world's sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco in 1851. She and her husband - Josiah Perkins Creesy, skipper - beat their own record two years later, and it was not broken until 1989.

clipper sailing ship at sea
Image: Clipper ship Flying Cloud by Currier and Ives
Flying Cloud, a Gold Rush era clipper ship, was commanded by Captain Josiah Creesy from 1851-1855. Eleanor Creesy sailed with her husband and served as his navigator throughout his career.

Early Years
Eleanor Prentiss was born on September 21, 1814, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her father was a master mariner, and he taught Eleanor the mathematics of navigation when she was a girl. Neighbors thought it was peculiar that her father educated Eleanor at a time when women rarely learned a trade, especially one dominated by men. Her dream was to marry a sea captain and sail with him around the world, and she rejected many suitors until she found the right man. In 1841 Eleanor married her sailor, Captain Josiah Creesy.

10.30.2016

Frances Fuller Victor

Author of Dime Novels and Oregon History

Frances Fuller Victor was a historian and historical novelist, who became the founding mother of all Oregon history. By the time she arrived in the Beaver State, she was already a well-known writer. Acknowledged by the Portland Oregonian as the Mother of Oregon History, Victor has also been described as 'the first Oregon historian to gain regional and national attention.'

Early Years
Frances Auretta Fuller was born in 1826 in Rome, New York. The Fullers relocated to Wooster, Ohio in 1839, where Frances was educated in a girls' school. Frances and her younger sister Metta started writing and publishing stories and poetry - first in local newspapers like the Cleveland Herald and Sandusky Daily Register and later in the New York Home Journal, a popular literary and arts magazine.

10.08.2016

Mary Anna Cooke Thompson

Portland's First Woman Physician

An advocate for women's rights throughout her life, she first broke through the barriers to women in medicine while she was raising a family in Illinois. Later honored as one of Oregon's pioneer doctors, Mary Anna Cooke Thompson practiced medicine in Oregon for more than forty years.

Image: Dr. Mary Anna Cooke Thompson
Courtesy Joseph Gaston
Portland: Its History and Builders

Early Years
Mary Anna Cooke was born February 14, 1825 in New York City. Her parents, Horatio and Anna Bennett Cooke, were both from England. The Cooke family moved to Chicago, Illinois when Mary was twelve.

9.28.2016

Black Women Writers of the 19th Century

African-American Women Authors in Antebellum America



Image: Middle-class black women who loved to read did not have many role models.
Credit: Jeffrey Green

Prior to the Civil War, the majority of African-Americans living in the United States were held in bondage. Although law forbade them, many found a way to learn to read and write. More African-Americans than we could have imagined published poetry, biographies, novels and short stories.

9.08.2016

First Feminists in the United States

First American Feminists

Feminism in the United States is often divided chronologically into first-wave (1848-1920), second-wave (early 1960s to 1980s), and third-wave (1990s-present). As of the most recent Gender Gap Index measurement of countries by the World Economic Forum in 2014, the United States is ranked 20th in gender equality.


Image: Amelia Bloomer (center) introduces Anthony (left) to Stanton.
Bloomer and Stanton are wearing the Bloomer costume (shorter dresses).
Seneca Falls, New York

Anthony and Stanton: Always at the Forefront

In the spring of 1851, William Lloyd Garrison conducted an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls. Susan B. Anthony attended, staying at the home of Amelia Bloomer. They met Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the street and immediately began their historic friendship.

8.28.2016

Mary Ann McClintock

Pioneer of the Women's Rights Movement

Mary Ann McClintock was one five women who met for tea in Waterloo, New York, but the conversation soon turned to women's rights, or rather the lack thereof. The result of this meeting, and another the following day at the McClintock House, was the First Women's Rights Convention, which was held at Seneca Falls on July 19-20, 1848.

Born Mary Ann Wilson in Burlington, New Jersey of Quaker parents, she attended Westtown School in 1814 for one year. She married Thomas McClintock in 1820 and moved with him to 107 South Ninth Street, his store in Philadelphia. They had five children: Elizabeth (1821), Mary Ann (1822), Sarah (1824), Charles (1829) and Julia (1831). They lived in Philadelphia for the first seventeen years of their marriage; there they were active members of the Philadelphia Quaker community and were recognized by their meetings as leaders.

8.09.2016

Smith Sisters and Their Cows

Suffragists and Women's Rights Activists

Julia Evelina Smith and Abby Hadassah Smith grew up on a wealthy estate in Glastonbury, Connecticut called Kimberly Farm. In their later years, the sisters refused to pay their exhorbitant property taxes until they were granted the right to vote in town meetings. Several of their cows were seized to pay overdue charges.

Image: Kimberly Mansion
1625 Main Street
Glastonbury, Connecticut

Early Years
Abigail Hadassah Smith (1797-1878) and Julia Evelina Smith (1792–1886) were the two youngest of a large family of women born to Hannah Hadassah (Hickok) Smith and Zephaniah Smith, a Congregational minister and lawyer. The sisters spent their entire lives at Kimberly Mansion, the Smith home at 1625 Main Street in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

7.07.2016

Emily Edson Briggs

One of the First Women Newspaper Correspondents in Washington

Emily Edson Briggs was a female newspaper reporter in the capital city. She was given access to the halls of Congress during the mid-1800s, which allowed her to describe the people and events there as a social commentator. She was one of the first women to acquire a national reputation in the field of journalism.

Emily Pomona Edson was born September 14, 1830 in Burton, Ohio but moved with her family to Chicago in 1840. She received an adequate education by attending local schools and taught briefly. In 1854, Emily married John Briggs.

In 1861, John Briggs was hired as an assistant clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives, and he wrote about political trends as well. Emily often accompanied him to the Lincoln White House where she became an ardent observer of the social and political happenings surrounding the First Couple.

6.08.2016

First Women in Business

Business Women in the Early United States

Women have always struggled with the challenges presented by socially-determined gender roles, which have both created opportunities for women’s advancement and limited their growth as professionals.

Image: Eliza Lucas Pinckney

Eliza Lucas Pinckney
Business: Agriculture
Eliza Lucas (1722-1793) was born in Antigua, West Indies and grew up at one of her family's sugarcane plantations on the island. Her parents, Lt. Colonel George Lucas and his wife Ann sent all their children to London to be educated. Eliza studied French and music, but her favorite subject was botany.

5.17.2016

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, which started a debate over whether women were entitled to a political voice.

5.09.2016

Meta Brevoort

First American Woman to Climb the Matterhorn

Meta (Marguerite Claudia) Brevoort was born November 8, 1825 in New York. She spent her early years in a Paris convent school. She was an American mountain climber who waited until she was about 40 to become a mountaineer. With her nephew and and dog Tschingel, she was the first climber to ascend several peaks in the Dauphine Alps of southeastern France, an unexplored region at that time. She was one of a small band of women who blazed a trail in the Alps for climbers who came after her.

Image: The Tschingel Company in 1874
Left to right: Christian Almer, Ulrich Almer, Meta Brevoort with the dog Tschingel and her nephew William Coolidge

Meta Brevoort began mountain climbing at the age of forty, in the summer of 1865 she brought her nephew William Augustus Brevoort Coolidge (1850-1926) from his home in New York to Europe and introduced him to Alpine climbing. They climbed together for more than ten seasons. In Switzerland, they met alpine-guide Christian Almer and adopted him as their personal guide. Brevoort and Coolidge began winter mountaineering, which was not very pleasant, but they became the first people to ascend the Wetterhorn and other nearby peaks.

4.30.2016

Romantic Friendship

Women Living Happily With Women

A romantic friendship is a very close but non-sexual relationship between same-sex friends who often shared a degree of physical closeness like kissing, hugging, holding hands, and sharing a bed. Such friendships offered emotional support and companionship in a society where women had few freedoms. Many of these women later left the romantic friendship and married men.

Women in romantic friendships usually lived together, in a world where women had few choices as to where they must live. As long as they remained single and had no other arrangements, they were forced to live with a male family member - father, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin. As they aged, they were often shuttled from household to household, never feeling welcome anywhere.

4.16.2016

Eliza Greatorex

Painter, Illustrator and Pen and Ink Artist

Eliza Greatorex was a noted painter of landscapes and cityscapes; she was especially known for her pen and ink drawings of New York and European scenes. She was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Design, one of America's first women illustrators, and one of the earliest women artists to reproduce scenes of Colorado in pen and ink drawings.

Image: Portrait of Eliza Pratt Greatorex
By Ferdinand Thomas Lee Boyle (1869)
Credit: National Academy of Design, New York

Early Years
Eliza Pratt was born December 25, 1819 in Manorhamilton, Ireland, and she emigrated to New York City with her family in 1840. In 1849 she married Henry Wellington Greatorex, a composer of hymns such as "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow." They had two daughters, Eleanor and Kathleen, and a son Thomas, who died in Colorado in 1881 at about the age of thirty. The Greatorexes traveled throughout North America and Europe while Henry performed in concerts.

1.31.2016

First American Women in Science I

Female Scientists Who Inspired Others to Follow

telescope used by astronomer Maria Mitchell
Maria Mitchell and her brass telescope
Maria Mitchell
Astronomer (1818-1889)
After she discovered a comet in 1847, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the most prestigious honorary societies, elected Maria Mitchell as its first woman member. The Academy was founded during the American Revolution by Founding Fathers John Adams, John Hancock, and other patriots.

Mitchell and her students used this telescope (right); now more than 150 years old, it remains among Vassar's treasures.

Matthew Vassar founded Vassar College in 1861, the second of the Seven Sisters schools to offer higher education strictly for women. In 1865, he appointed Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) the first person on the Vassar faculty. The well-known astronomer made the building of an observatory with living quarters for herself and her father a condition of her employment.

1.03.2016

First Women Inventors

machine invented by a woman
Sybilla Masters Corn Refiner

First American Women Inventors

Before the 1970s, the topic of women's history was largely ignored by the general public. Women have probably been inventing since the dawn of time without recognition. Many women faced prejudice and ridicule when they sought help from men to implement their ideas. Property laws also made it difficult for women to acquire patents for their inventions. By 1850 only thirty-two patents had been issued to women.

Sybilla Masters (1715)
Sybilla Masters invented a way to clean and refine the Indian corn that the colonists grew in early America and received the first patent issued to man or woman in recorded American history in 1715. Masters' innovation processed the corn into many different food and cloth products.