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Bly, Nellie (1864-1922)

The year was eighteen eighty-seven. The place was New York City. A young woman, Elizabeth Cochrane, wanted a job at a large newspaper. The editor agreed, if she would investigate a hospital for people who were mentally sick and then write about it. She decided to become a patient in the hospital herself. She used the name Nellie Brown so no one would discover her or her purpose. Newspaper officials said they would get her released after a while.

To prepare, Nellie put on old clothes and stopped washing. She went to a temporary home for women. She acted as if she had severe mental problems. She cried and screamed and stayed awake all night. The police were called. She was examined by doctors. Most said she was insane.Continue Reading »

Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice (1820-1905)

Mary Livermore was born on December 19, 1820, in Boston, Massachusetts. She was an American suffragist and social reformer who lectured and wrote for religious and reform periodicals. She served as president of the American Woman Suffrage Association, the Association for the Advancement of Women and the Massachusetts Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Livermore died in 1905.Continue Reading »

Foster, Abigail Kelley – (1811-1887)

Abby Kelley spoke at the 1838 Anti-Slavery Convention in Philadelphia, breaking the cultural rules of her time by addressing a mixed audience of men and women. The meeting was highly controversial, and after it ended, protestors burned the newly built facility to the ground. Two years later, at the 1840 American Anti-Slavery Society’s annual meeting, she broke another cultural rule and effectively split the anti-slavery movement by asserting woman’s equality. Male abolitionists demonstrated their conservatism on women’s rights: when William Lloyd Garrison appointed Kelley to the society business committee, about half of the members resigned and formed their own rival group .Continue Reading »

Dickinson, Anna (1842-1932)

Anna Dickenson began her activism even earlier, when she was thirteen years old, by writing an essay for William Lloyd Garrison’s famed newspaper, The Liberator. She also was friendly with Lucretia Mott, who preached against slavery in Quaker meetinghouses for decades. Unlike others of the era’s religions, Quakers encouraged women to speak in public, and under Mott’s leadership, some eight hundred Philadelphians bought tickets for Dickinson’s first major speech early in 1861, “The Rights and Wrongs of Women.”Continue Reading »

Ward, Nancy or Nanye-hi – (1738-1822)

Nanye-hi’s husband, with whom she had two children, was killed in a raid on the Creeks, the Cherokee’s land rivals, during the 1755 Battle of Taliwa. Nanye-hi fought by his side, chewing the lead bullets for his rifle to make them more pointed and deadly. When the enemy killed him, she rallied the Cherokee warriors, leading a charge that brought victory to the Cherokees. Because of her actions, the Cherokee clans chose her as Ghighau, or the “Beloved Woman.” In this powerful position, her opinion was influential in the tribal government because the Cherokees believed that the Great Spirit could speak through the Beloved Woman. As Beloved Woman, Nanye-hi headed the Women’s Council, sat on the Council of Chiefs, and had complete power over prisoners. Continue Reading »

Wright, Frances (1795-1852)

Frances Wright was the first woman in America to act publicly against slavery: in 1825 she bought a tract of land twenty miles outside a little Mississippi River trading post named Memphis, and there she established a commune she called Nashoba. Its purpose was to discover and then to demonstrate how slaves could be responsibly educated and then freed without undue cost to their owners. (To impose a disproportionate burden on one part of the nation when the institution of slavery plagued and disgraced us all seemed to Fanny Wright both unfair and politically unwise. Her political sense, such as it was, deserted her, however, when she published an article about Nashoba claiming that sexual passion was “the strongest and…the noblest of the human passions,” the basis of “the best joys of our existence,” and “the best source of human happiness.” This at a time when allowing an ankle to show in public doomed a woman’s reputation.)Continue Reading »

Sampson, Deborah (1760-1827)

For over two years, Deborah’s true sex had escaped detection. She had had close calls with both discovery and death: fainting on that first march to West Point, lying that she had had smallpox when the soldiers were culled for vaccination in the winter of 1782, receiving a revealing wound in June of 1781, and nearly drowning in the Croton River in December of that year. In the first half of 1783, she had taken a perilous trip through the snow to the frontiers of upstate New York, had been attacked by robbers, and had avoided bathing in the Hudson River with the rest of the troops. All this and more she had successfully navigated. She knew that unconsciousness was her greatest danger because then she could not rely on quick thinking to get her out of trouble. She also feared being in a hospital where she could be subjected to the unwanted probing of the doctor. Now both things that she had dreaded the most, even more than the prospect of death, had happened. Dr. Benjamin Binney did discover her secret, which he eventually made known in a letter to General Peterson on Deborah’s return to the army.Continue Reading »

Roosevelt, Eleanor and the AFSC

Written by Jack Sutters, former AFSC archivist. “Eleanor Roosevelt’s association with the AFSC began before Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration in March 1933.”Continue Reading »

Cruikshank, Nelson Hale

Nelson Hale Cruikshank (1902-1986): Minister, Labor Leader and a Leader for Social Security and MedicareContinue Reading »

Randolph, A. Phillip

A. Philip Randolph: Founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Chair of the Committee that Organized the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”Continue Reading »

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