1838- Oberlin Admits Women
Graduating Class of 1889
With the freshmen class of 1838, Oberlin College admitted its first four women. The college prided itself on its openness, having been the first school to admit blacks, it was also the first college in the nation to admit women.
In 1837 Oberlin College admitted the first women to its school. The colleges co-founder, John Jay Shiperd was the driving force behind admitting women. Shiperd believed in his words: in elevating the female character. The first four women to be admitted to Oberlin were: Mary Kellogg, Mary Caroline Rudd, Mary Hosford and Elizabeth Prall. The women graduated with AB degrees. Kellogg left before she could graduate due to her financial situation. However, she returned later on to finish her degree.
Oberlin's reputation as an extremely progressive school was enhanced in 1844, just a few years later, when it graduated its first African-American student
A History of Women in Higher Education
In 1636, only a handful of years after British settlers established their first permanent colonies on the coast of North America, Harvard College began educating students. For over 300 years, Harvard admitted only white men from prominent families — that is, until the 19th century, when women turned the tide in their fight for a place at America's universities.
Before then, colleges rarely admitted women. These days, however, nearly all colleges and universities enroll women (except for a small handful of men-only schools). The process of making higher education coeducational wasn't smooth. Generations of women faced pushback from male classmates, administrators, and others who framed their opposition as a defense of tradition.
But by the 1980s, women made up a majority of undergraduates — a position they continue to hold today. So how did women break into higher education? With a lot of time, and with much resilience.
1839 Mississippi passes Married Women’s Property Act.
1840 Lucretia Mott is denied a seat at the World Anti-Slavery Conference in London because of her gender.
Mott’s account of her trip to Great Britain is reprinted as Slavery and the “Woman Question”
1841 Catharine Beecher’s A Treatise on Domestic Economy is published.
Catharine Beecher (1800-1878),
1841 Dorothea Dix begins her crusade for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.
1846 Six women demand equal rights in a petition to New York’s constitutional convention.
1847 Lucy Stone graduates from Oberlin College. Stone refuses to write a commencement address because she would not be allowed to read it herself.
1848 Elizabeth Ellet’s The Women of the American Revolution is published.
Ellet asks questions about women in the Revolutionary War.
1848 Ellen Craft escapes slavery by posing as a white man.
1848 The first women’s rights convention in the United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York..
1848 Maria Mitchell is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
1849 Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to receive the M.D. degree.
1850 The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania becomes the first medical school for women. The institution will be renamed Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867.
1850 Fugitive Slave Law
1850 Harriet Tubman makes her first trip to the South as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
1852 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony become active in the Women’s New York State Temperance Society.
1852 Historian Carla Peterson interprets speeches by Sojourner Truth (1852) and Frances Watkins Harper.
1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act
1859 Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black is published.
1859 Martha J. Coston patents a night signal flare in her husband’s name..
1859 Abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond begins a two-year lecture tour that will include stops in Scotland, Ireland, England, and France.
1861 Elizabeth Keckley becomes Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker.
1861 Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy, is placed under house arrest.
1862 Dr. Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska opens the New England Hospital for Women and Children.
1862 Homestead Act
1862 Julia Ward Howe writes the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
1864 Sand Creek Massacre leaves at least 150 Cheyennes and Arapahos dead.
1865 Vassar College, chartered in 1861, welcomes its first group of women students.
1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), and Lucy Stone helps found the more moderate American Woman Suffrage Association.
1872 Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought to trial for attempting to vote in the presidential election.
The Stanton and Anthony Papers Project Online includes excerpts from Anthony’s letters in Snapshot Stories: Anthony’s Illegal Vote.
1872 Victoria Woodhull is nominated as a presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party.
1872 Winema Riddle works for peace during the Modoc War.
1873 Ellen Swallow Richards becomes the first woman graduate of MIT.
1874 The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is founded.
1876 Sculptor Edmonia Lewis completes The Death of Cleopatra.
1876 Lydia E. Pinkham registers the label and trademark for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.
1877 Women’s Educational and industrial union established
1879 Belva Lockwood becomes the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court bar.
1879 Frances Willard is elected president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
1879 Mary Baker Eddy founds the First Church of Christ Scientist.
1881 Alice Freeman Palmer becomes president of Wellesley College.
1881 Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary is founded by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles.
1881 Alice Fletcher begins a six-week camping trip on the Sioux Reservation in Dakota Territory.
1881 Clara Barton founds the American Red Cross.
1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act restricts Chinese immigration to the United States.
1882 Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor details the mistreatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government.
1884 M. Carey Thomas becomes Dean of Bryn Mawr College.
1885 Sharpshooter Annie Oakley begins touring with “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Show.
1886 Mormon women protest the pending Edmunds-Tucker bill.
1887 Anne Sullivan begins teaching Helen Keller.
1887 The Dawes Severality Act subdivides Indian reservations into individual plots of land.
1887 Susanna Salter is elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas, thus becoming the first woman mayor in the country.
1889 Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House in Chicago.
1889 Nellie Bly travels around the world in 72 days.
1889 Susan La Flesche Picotte becomes the first Native American woman medical doctor.
1890 General Federation of Women’s Clubs is organized by Jane Croly.
1890 National American Woman Suffrage Association is formed.
1891 Lili’uokalani becomes queen of Hawaii.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivers her “Solitude of Self” address to the Congressional Judiciary Committee..
1892 Ellis Island opens on January 1. Fifteen year old Annie Moore is the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island.
1892 Mary Elizabeth Garrett’s gift of $306,977 enables the medical school of Johns Hopkins University to open the following year..
1892 Senda Berenson introduces the first rules for women’s basketball..
1895 Lillian Wald opens the Henry Street Settlement in New York City.
Wald is featured in the Jewish Women’s Archive online exhibit “Women of Valor.”
1896 Amy Beach’s “Gaelic” Symphony
1896 Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cookbook is published.
1896 Klondike Gold Rush begins.
1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling allows “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races.”.
1898 Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Women and Economics is published.
1898 Spanish-American War.
1899 Carrie Nation begins her militant crusade against saloons.
1899 Florence Kelley becomes head of the National Consumer’s League.
1899 Frances Benjamin Johnston photographs students at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia.
1900 Female missionaries associated with Oberlin College are among those killed during the Boxer Rebellion in China..
1902Charlotte Hawkins Brown founds the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina.
1902 Elizabeth Cady Stanton dies..
1902 Mary Harris “Mother” Jones organizes West Virginia for the great anthracite coal strike of 1902.
1903 Maggie Lena Walker becomes president of the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia.
1904 Helen Keller graduates from Radcliffe College.
1904 Mary McLeod Bethune founds the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls, now Bethune-Cookman College..
1904 The National Child Labor Committee is formed.
1905 Mary Colter designs Hopi House
1906 Susan B. Anthony dies.
1907 Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women.
1907 Marian and Edward MacDowell found the MacDowell Colony, an artists’ retreat.
1908 Lewis Hine Photographs for the National Child Labor Committee, 1908 – 1912.
1909 International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) organizes strike by 20,000 New York City shirtwaist makers.
1910 Chicago garment workers’ strike.
1910 Madam C.J. Walker sets up a factory and beauty school in Indianapolis.
1911 Virginia Gildersleeve becomes dean of Barnard College.
Rosalind Rosenberg explores Gildersleeve’s long career at Barnard in Virginia Gildersleeve: Opening the Gates, part of Columbia University’s Living Legacies series.
1912 The Bread and Roses Strike begins in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
1912 Harriet Monroe founds Poetry, the first periodical in the United States devoted exclusively to verse.
1912 Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) founds the Girl Scouts of America.
1912 Oregon’s Equal Suffrage Proclamation
1912 U.S. Children’s Bureau is formally created.]
1913 Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is arrested after leading protest of conditions in West Virginia mines.
1913 The woman suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. draws more than 5000 marchers..
1914 Ludlow Massacre (April 14)
1914 Margaret Sanger publishes the first issue of The Woman Rebel.
1914 Nina Allender becomes the official cartoonist for the National Woman’s Party.
Today in History: Born on October 30
John Adams, second president of the United States who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolution.
Richard Sheridan, playwright (The Rivals, The School for Scandal).
Alfred Sisley, landscape painter.
Gertrude Atherton, novelist.
Paul Valery, poet and essayist.
William F. "Bull" Halsey, Jr., American admiral who played an instrumental role in the defeat of Japan during World War II. The Japanese surrender was signed on his flagship, the USS Missouri.
Ezra Pound, American poet who promoted Imagism, a poetic movement stressing free phrase rather than forced metric. He was imprisoned for his pro-Fascist radio broadcasts.
Ruth Gordon, Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe–winning actress (Harold and Maude, Rosemary's Baby).
Hermann Fegelein, SS general of WWII who was brother-in-law to Adolf Hitler's mistress Eva Braun.
Fred W. Friendly, president of CBS News and co-creator of the documentary series See It Now, the program largely credited for bringing down Sen. Joe McCarthy.
Clifford "Brpwnie" Brown, influential jazz trumpeter and composer ("Joy Spring," "Daahoud").
Dick Vermeil, head coach of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles (1976–1982), St. Louis Rams (1997–1999), and Kansas City Chiefs (2001–2005).
Grace Slick, singer, songwriter lead singer for the bands The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship.
Henry Winkler, actor, director, producer rose to fame as "The Fonz" on Happy Days TV series, a role that twice earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy.
Tory Belleci, filmmaker and model maker known for his work on the Mythbusters TV series also worked on two Star Wars films.
Oberlin History Frequently Asked Questions and Timeline
View a timeline of major events in Oberlin's history, compiled by the Oberlin Heritage Center.
Where does the name "Oberlin" come from?
Oberlin was named after John Frederic Oberlin (1740-1826), a minister and social reformer in the Alsace region of France. He was passionately committed to universal education and imposed on his parish a universal tax to support free public education. Among other things, he also improved existing transportation infrastructure and advocated business and vocational training for men and women. He worked to improve agricultural knowledge, importing new breeds of livestock and experimenting in horticulture and and grafting "standard" varieties of fruit trees onto local indigenous plants. He encouraged village residents to be trained in medicine and midwifery, promoted good hygiene and sanitation, including litter collection, and, when it became available, made the smallpox vaccine obligatory for residents of his parish.
Which came first, the town or the college?
They were both founded at the same time. The year was 1833. The first residents of Oberlin and signers of the Oberlin Covenant wanted to found a Christian perfectionist settlement away from the sinful world. Part of their mission included education, which they considered a necessary part of proper living. The Conservatory of Music was "officially" established in 1865 before that, it was part of the College.
Was Oberlin the first co-educational college?
Effectively, yes. Women were invited to enroll when the college was first founded, although they were allowed to apply to only two of the college&rsquos four departments (they were excluded from the full college and seminary until 1837). The first three women &ndash Mary Hosford (later Fisher), Elizabeth Smith Prall (later Russell), and Mary Caroline Rudd (later Allen) &ndash to earn and receive their bachelor's degrees in the United States got them from Oberlin College in 1841. A fourth woman began her work toward the B.A. with these three women, but she ended her studies early. Collectively, however, these women are sometimes known as "the Oberlin Four."
Was Oberlin the first college to admit African-American students?
Actually, it was not. Oberlin was the first college to have a policy of not discriminating against African-Americans &ndash race-blind admissions, if you will, beginning in 1835. It was also the first college to grant a degree to an African-American woman: Mary Jane Patterson, OC 1862.
Was Oberlin College a church affiliated school?
Oberlin College had a theological seminary until 1964 which was non-denominational.
Were there underground tunnels and secret passageways in Oberlin for fugitive slaves?
Probably not. The Underground Railroad was "underground" in the sense of "secret" or "hidden," not literally below-ground in most cases. Though sometimes tunnels were part of the Underground Railroad, no historic tunnels have yet been documented in Oberlin. The Underground Railroad was not so much a physical thing as an everchanging network of individual freedom seekers aided by abolitionists.
Where did fugitive slaves hide in their flight to freedom?
Many African Americans, including some who had escaped from slavery, lived openly in the community, especially before the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act. Since the entire town was known as a safe place and a hotbed of the abolitionist movement, it is unlikely that many homes had secret hiding places. Most stories involve people hiding in spare rooms, barns, within wagons, in the woods, or not hiding at all. Not many homes from the pre-Civil War era survive and many that do have undergone extensive alterations. Of course, any house in town built before the Civil War could have been part of the Underground Railroad.
Oberlin was the home of many ardent abolitionists, both African American and Caucasian, and many of them were active in the Underground Railroad in various ways. John Mercer Langston, the Evans brothers, and James Monroe were among the community&rsquos most prominent abolitionists.
Visitors are encouraged to check our Event Calendar to take part in a Freedom&rsquos Friends History Walk and hear stories about Oberlin&rsquos participation in the Underground Railroad.
An excellent illustrated handbook of the Underground Railroad produced by the National Park Service is available for sale in our Museum Store and online shop.
Was Oberlin Station 99 on the Underground Railroad?
No. Current research strongly suggests that this term came into use in the mid 1900s. It is misleading. The Underground Railroad was not a set route with fixed stops, it was an ever changing network. Safe houses, participants, and paths were always changing to avoid suspicion. Very few people ever traveled the exact same path and therefore stations and safe houses were not numbered. Although the entire community of Oberlin was certainly a popular haven for many men, women, and children travelling north to freedom, no historic records have been found calling Oberlin &ldquoStation 99&rdquo.
Was Oberlin a dry town?
Yes. Oberlin has a strong tradition of temperance, beginning with its founders in 1833. The Anti-Saloon League was founded in Oberlin in 1893 and later moved to Westerville. In the mid-1900s city directories occassionally list taverns, which perhaps sold beverages with lower alcohol content, such as 3.2% beer. Only beginning in the 1980s and 1990s were a few restaurants licensed to serve hard liquor.
Was aluminum invented in Oberlin?
Not quite. Aluminum has been recognized as a metal for several centuries. Before 1886, however, it was extremely expensive to produce. Charles Martin Hall, an Oberlin resident and OC alumnus, invented an inexpensive and (relatively!) easy way to produce aluminum &ndash the same process we use today. Hall founded ALCOA (The Aluminum Company of America), produced a lot of aluminum, and made quite a fortune.
What is that big stone monument in Tappan Square?
Oberlin College originally included a Theological Seminary. Many of the graduates of the Seminary worked as missionaries in all regions of the world. One "hot spot" for Oberlin-trained missions was China, particularly the Shansi (Shanxi) province of China. In 1899, a group of Chinese nationalists (the "Boxers") wanted to purge their country of foreign influences, including missionaries. The "Memorial Arch" in Tappan Square is a monument to the Oberlin-trained missionaries who were killed in the Boxer Uprising/Rebellion. More recently, a plaque has been added to the Arch to honor the Chinese nationals who also were killed in the violence.
Why is the town square called Tappan Square?
The square in Oberlin was named Tappan Square in the 1940s, in honor of Arthur and Lewis Tappan, wealthy merchants of New York City who supported Oberlin College in its early days and who were ardent abolitionists. The square was previously known as College Park or the Campus. Until 1965 it held the Historic Elm, under which John Jay Shipherd and Philo Stewart were said to have knelt and prayed to God and on which spot they decided to found the town. The square held college buildings for many years, including a five-story brick college classroom and men&rsquos dormitory called Tappan Hall. As the buildings on the square grew older, the area was cleaned up as a green space for the community, in accordance with the provisions of the will of Charles Martin Hall.
Why are there painted boulders on Tappan Square?
The two largest boulders were placed on the square in 1897 and 1933. The Oberlin College Class of 1898 removed one boulder from Plumb Creek and put it on the square in 1897. The plaque reads &ldquoGlacial boulder of granitoid gneiss from eastern Canada, excavated from 10 feet below the surface of the northwest corner of Professor and Morgan streets and placed here by the class of &rsquo98 during the night of Dec. 3 1897.&rdquo The other, known as the Founders Boulder, was taken from Erie County and reads &ldquoIn Memory of John J. Shipherd, Philo P. Stewart, Dedicated June 17, 1933.&rdquo
Plaques on the boulders have been covered by hundreds of layers of paint and are barely legible. The rocks became public billboards in the 1960s and soon even college officials joined in the tradition of painting the rocks. Today, anyone can paint them on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit oberlinrocks.com to see more images of the painted rocks.
Where are there &ldquoother Oberlins&rdquo?
In addition to Oberlin in Ohio, there are communities named Oberlin in Alsace-Lorain, France and in Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. Various other places bear &ldquoOberlin&rdquo names including Oberlin Beach on Lake Erie, where some Oberlin families maintained summer homes. There is an Oberlin neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina that began in the Reconstruction era as a community for recently freed blacks.
In November, 1910, an &ldquoOberlin&rdquo sequoia tree was designated in Yosemite Park by then Superintendent of the park, George W. Hinman (OC, 1893). As of 2001 it still stood, west of the Museum (or cabin), though it now bears a large fire scar. There is also a mountain and waterfall in Glacier National Park named Oberlin a small water inlet in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario named by Oberlin summer residents. Check out the article on other Oberlins in our Resource Center written by Richard Lothrop for much more detailed information.
Black American History and Women Timeline: 1800–1859
The first half of the 19th century is a seminal period in the history of the North American Black activist movement, with many of the key figures who would influence generations of advocates fighting against racism and prejudice and for the rights of Black Americans making their appearance. This is the period that gives rise to such important events as the Underground Railroad, activists such as Frederick Douglass, and anti-enslavement publications such as The Liberator.
February 11: Lydia Maria Child is born. She will become a North American 19th-century Black activist and writer who also advocates for women's rights and Indigenous peoples' rights. Her best-known piece today is the homey "Over the River and Through the Wood," but her influential anti-enslavement writing helps sway many Americans toward activism. She will also publish "An Appeal in Favor of the Class of Americans Called Africans" in 1822 and "Anti-Slavery Catechism" in 1836.
May 3: Congress bans employment by the U.S. Postal Service of any African Americans, declaring:
September 1: James Callendar accuses Thomas Jefferson of keeping "as his concubine, one of his own slaves"—Sally Hemings. The accusation is first published in the Richmond Recorder. Just a year before his death, Callendar turns on his former patron, beginning his piece with the words:
Lee Snider / Photo Images / Getty Images
February 19: The Ohio Constitution is adopted, outlawing enslavement and prohibiting free Black people the right to vote. "The convention members (fail) to extend the suffrage to African-American men in the constitution by a single vote," according to Ohio History Central. But the document is still "one the most democratic state constitutions in America to that time," the website states.
September 3: Prudence Crandall is born. The Quaker, North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activist, and teacher will defy prevailing patterns of racial discrimination when she opens one of the nation's first schools for Black girls in Connecticut in 1833.
Interim Archives / Getty Images
February 20: Angelina Emily Grimke Weld is is born. Grimke, is a southern woman from a family of enslavers who, along with her sister, Sarah Moore Grimke, will become a North American 19th-century Black activist and women's rights proponent. With her sister and her husband, Theodore Weld, Angelina Grimke will also write "American Slavery As It Is," a major anti-enslavement text.
July 25: Maria Weston Chapman is born. She will become a prominent North American 19th-century Black activist. She will begin her activism work in 1834, particularly for the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. She will have a long literary career publishing "Songs of the Free, and Hymns of Christian Freedom" in 1836, editing the Female Anti-Slavery Society annual reports titled Right and Wrong in Boston also in 1836, publishing "Liberty Bell," and helping edit The Liberator and Non-Resistant, North American 19th-century Black activist publications, in 1839. She also organized the Anti-Slavery Fair in Boston in 1842, began editing the National Anti-Slavery Standard on 1844, and published "How Can I Help to Abolish Slavery" in 1855.
September 9: Sarah Mapps Douglass is born. She will become a North American 19th-century Black activist and educator. In 1831, Douglass helps raise money in support of William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator. She and her mother are also among the women who, in 1833, found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
New Jersey passes legislation that restricts the right to vote to free, White, male citizens, removing the vote from all African Americans and women, some of whom had voted before the change. The National Park Service notes that the legislature blocking women's right to vote is intended:
The NPS notes also that the state's "first constitution in 1776 gave voting rights to 'all inhabitants of this colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds … and have resided within the county … for twelve months.' " The move by the New Jersey legislature is part of a growing wave by state governments restricting the rights of Black Americans and women to vote.
January 25: Ohio passes Black Laws restricting the rights of free Black people further toughening restrictions, enacted in 1804, that had been pushed by White settlers from Kentucky and Virginia and a growing group of businessmen who had ties to southern enslavement. The Buckeye state thus becomes the first legislative body in the country to approve such laws. These laws will remain in effect until 1849.
January 1: Importing enslaved people to the United States becomes illegal about 250,000 more Africans are imported to the United States after it becomes illegal to do so. Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia University, explains to NPR:
Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
February 17: New York begins recognizing marriages of enslaved people, stating that:
The African Female Benevolent Society of Newport, Rhode Island, is founded. The group focuses on the needs of the Black Newport community by clothing and educating many underprivileged children.
November 27: Fanny Kemble is born. She will publish the anti-enslavement "Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838–1839." Kemble is actually born in Great Brittan to an acting family and also becomes a famous actress who also does acting tours in the U.S. During one of her tours, she meets and marries Pierce Mease Butler, who inherits a plantation in Georgia that enslaves hundreds of Black people. Kemble and Butler live in Philadelphia, but she visits the Georgia plantation one summer. It is upon that visit that she bases her journal. Kemble also expresses her anti-enslavement views in an 11-volume memoir.
June 14: Harriet Beecher Stowe is born. She becomes the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which expresses her moral outrage at the institution of enslavement and its destructive effects on both White and Black Americans. The book helps build anti-enslavement sentiment in America and abroad. When Stowe meets President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, he reportedly exclaims, "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!"
Tim Pierce / Public Domain
Boston incorporates the city's African School into the city's public school system. Black students had been enrolled at the school since it was founded in 1798 by 60 members of the Black community in Boston, according to OhRanger.com, a publisher of visitor guides to the U.S. national parks and home to the American Park Network. OhRanger.com notes that the Boston School Committee is "worn down by decades of petitions and requests," and this year recognizes:
Kean Collection / Getty Images
November 12: Elizabeth Cady Stanton is born. She will become a leader, writer, and activist in the 19th-century women's suffrage movement as well as the anti-enslavement movement. Stanton often works with Susan B. Anthony as the theorist and writer, while Anthony is the public spokesperson for the women's-rights movement.
August 13: Lucy Stone is born. She will be the first woman in Massachusetts to earn a college degree and the first woman in the United States to keep her own name after marriage. She also becomes a noted editor and North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activist and women's rights advocate.
Harriet Tubman, enslaved from birth, is born in Maryland. Tubman's organizing ability later proves critical to the development and execution of the Underground Railroad, a network of opponents of enslavement that helped freedom seekers before the Civil War. She will also become a North American 19th-century Black activist, women's rights advocate, soldier, spy, and lecturer.
February 15: Susan B. Anthony is born. She will become a reformer, North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activist, women's rights advocate, and lecturer. Together with Stanton, her lifelong partner in political organizing, Anthony plays a pivotal role in the activism that leads to American women gaining the right to vote.
New York state ends property qualifications for White male voters but keeps such qualifications for Black male voters women are not included in the franchise. As Bennett Liebman explains in his paper, "The Quest for Black Voting Rights in New York State" published in 2018 in the Albany Government Law Review:
Not to be outdone by New York in stripping rights from Black people, Missouri also removes the right to vote from African Americans this year. The following year, Rhode Island also removes the right to vote from African Americans.
Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
October 9: Mary Ann Shadd Cary is born. She will become a noted journalist, teacher, and North American 19th-century Black activist. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Cary, with her brother and his wife, will emigrate to Canada, publishing "A Plea for Emigration or Notes of Canada West" urging other Black Americans to flee for their safety in light of the new legal situation that denies that any Black person has rights as a U.S. citizen.
September 24: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper is born in Maryland to free Black parents. She will become a writer and North American 19th-century Black activist. She will also become an advocate of women's rights and a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Her writings, which focus on themes of racial justice, equality, and freedom, include "Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects," which includes the anti-enslavement poem, "Bury Me in a Free Land."
In October: Frances Wright purchases land near Memphis and founds Nashoba plantation, purchasing enslaved people who would work to buy their freedom, become educated, and then when free move outside the United States. When Wright's plantation project fails, she takes the remaining enslaved people to freedom in Haiti.
June 6: Sarah Parker Remond is born. She will become an anti-enslavement lecturer whose British lectures help keep England from entering the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. Before giving these speeches, in 1853, Remond also tries to integrate a Boston theater and is hurt when a policeman pushes her—more than a century before Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a public bus, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Remond sues the officer and wins a $500 judgment. In 1856, she will be hired as a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
New York Library Digital Collection / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
New York state ends the practice of enslavement. However, "complete abolition (will) not be achieved until 1841 when the state (revokes) a law that made nonresidents able to hold slaves for up to 9 months," according to the website NYC Urbanism LLC.
August 15–22: Race riots in Cincinnati erupt "when gangs of white residents (begin) attacking Black residents in the street and (descend) on their homes," according to the Zinn Education Project. The riots result in more than half the Black residents in the city being forced out of town.
The first permanent order of African American Catholic nuns is founded, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, in Maryland. Nearly 175 years later, in 2000, Mayor Martin O'Malley and officials gather at 610 George Street "for the unveiling of a stone monument commemorating the site where, in a rented house, no longer extant, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest order of black nuns in the nation," according to The Baltimore Sun.
Carol M. Highsmith / Wikimedia Commons
North Carolina bans the teaching of any enslaved person to read and write. The bill, states, in part:
January 17: Alabama bans preaching by any African Americans, free or enslaved. The legislative action is laid out in Act 44, which is "part of a series of increasingly restrictive laws governing the behavior of free and enslaved Black people (prohibiting) Black people from being freed within the state and (authorizing) re-enslavement of any free Black person who entered the state," notes eji.org, a website that catalogs the history of racial injustice in the U.S.
September: Enslaved men and women of the ship Amistad take over the ship and demand that the U.S. recognize their freedom. While it begins more than 4,000 miles from the jurisdiction of the U.S. federal courts, the Amistad case, which reaches the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841, remains one of the most dramatic and meaningful legal battles in America’s history, turning the federal courts into a public forum on the very legality of enslavement. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually frees the captives, and the 35 survivors return to Africa in November 1841.
Jarena Lee publishes her autobiography, "The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee," the first by an African American woman. Lee is also the first authorized female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, according to BlackPast, and she is heavily involved in the North American 19th-century Black activist movement.
Kean Collection / Archive Photos / Getty Images
Maria W. Stewart begins a series of four public lectures on religion and justice, advocating for racial equality, racial unity, and advocacy for rights among African Americans. A North American 19th-century Black activist and lecturer, she is the first United States-born woman of any race to give a political speech in public. Indeed, she predates—and greatly influences—later Black activists and thinkers such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. A contributor to The Liberator, Stewart is active in progressive circles and also influences groups such as the New England Anti-Slavery Society.
February: The Female Anti-Slavery Society is founded in Salem, Massachusetts, by and for African American women. Like most free Black anti-enslavement societies, the Salem organization addresses issues important to free Black people and participates in the campaign against enslavement. A number of other female anti-enslavement societies will be established in various U.S. cities in the coming years.
September 2: Oberlin College is founded in Ohio, admitting women and African Americans as students along with White men. Tuition is free.
Kean Collection / Getty Images
Sarah Mapps Douglass, after working as a teacher in New York, returns to Philadelphia to lead the school for Black girls that her mother had founded with the help of wealthy Black Philadelphia businessman James Forten when Douglass was 13 years old.
In Connecticut, Prudence Crandall admits a Black student to her girls' school. She reacts to disapproval by dismissing the White students and reopens it as a school for African American Girls in March 1933. She will stand trial later this year for admitting the Black student. She would close the school the following year in the face of harassment from the community.
May 24: Connecticut passes a law forbidding the enrollment of Black students from outside the state without the permission of the local legislature. Under this statute, Crandall is jailed for one night.
August 23: Crandall's trial begins. The defense uses a constitutionality argument that free African Americans had rights in all states. The judgment, handed down in July 1834, goes against Crandall, but the Connecticut Supreme Court reverses the lower court's decision, though not on constitutional grounds.
December: The American Anti-Slavery Society is founded, with four women attending, and Lucretia Mott speaks at the first meeting. In the same month, Mott and others found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. The Philadelphia group operates for more than three and a half decades before dissolving in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War.
New York absorbs Black schools into the public school system. The Africa Free School, which was established in 1798 in Greenwich Village in New York City, was the first school for Black students in the United States, according to the Village Preservation Blog. By 1834, seven such schools exist with an enrollment of "thousands" of Black students, and those are absorbed into the city's school system, the website notes. But New York City's Black schools will remain firmly segregated for many years.
As New York City takes a small step forward, South Carolina tightens restrictions on Black education, banning the teaching of all African Americans in the state, free or enslaved.
January 8: Fannie Jackson Coppin is born. Enslaved from birth, Coppin gains her freedom (with the help of her aunt), attends Rhode Island State Normal School, and then Oberlin College, where she is the first Black person chosen to be a pupil-teacher. After graduating in 1865, Coppin is appointed to the Institute for Colored Youth, a Quaker school in Philadelphia. During her life, she works as a "teacher, principal, lecturer, missionary to Africa, and warrior against the most cruel oppression," according to Coppin State University. The Black college in Northwest Baltimore was ultimately named for her in 1926 as Fanny Jackson Coppin Normal School.
Angelina Grimke publishes her anti-enslavement letter, "Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" and her sister, Sarah Moore Grimke, publishes her anti-enslavement letter, "Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States."
August 17: Charlotte Forten is born (she later becomes Charlotte Forten Grimke). She will become known for her writings about the schools in the Sea Islands for formerly enslaved people and serve as a teacher at such a school. Grimke also becomes an anti-enslavement activist, poet, and the wife of prominent Black leader Rev. Francis J. Grimke.
Garrison and others win the right of women to join the American Anti-Slavery Society, and for the Grimke sisters and other women to speak to mixed (male and female) audiences.
The Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women is held in New York. The convention is one of the first times women meet and speak publicly at this scale.
February 21: Angelina Grimke speaks to the Massachusetts legislature, the first woman to address a legislative body in the United States. Presenting anti-enslavement petitions signed by 20,000 Massachusetts women, she tells the body: "We are citizens of this republic and as such our honor, happiness, and well-being are bound up in its politics, government, and laws," according to the website MassMoments. The Grimke sisters also publish "American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses."
Helen Pitts is born. She will become the second wife of Frederick Douglass. She also becomes a suffragist and a North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activist. Her interracial marriage to Douglass is considered surprising and scandalous.
May 15–18: The Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women meets in Philadelphia. One of the motions at the convention, according to documents held by the Library of Congress, reads:
Women are permitted to vote for the first time at an annual convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
Lucretia Mott, Lydia Maria Child, and Maria Weston Chapman make up the executive committee of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.
June 12–23: The World Anti-Slavery Convention is held in London. It does not seat women or allow them to speak Mott and Stanton meet over this issue and their reaction leads directly to organizing, in 1848, the first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.
Abby Kelley's new leadership role in the American Anti-Slavery Society leads some members to secede over women's participation.
Lydia Maria Child and David Child edit Anti-Slavery Standard, the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society. It will be published regularly until the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870.
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin is born. A journalist, activist, and lecturer, she will become the first Black American to graduate from Harvard Law School and later serve on the Boston City Council and the state legislature. She will also become the first Black municipal judge in Boston.
Sojourner Truth begins her North American 19th-century Black activist work, changing her name from Isabella Van Wagener. Freed from enslavement by New York state law in 1827, she serves as an itinerant preacher before becoming involved in the anti-enslavement and women's rights movements. In 1864, Truth will meet Abraham Lincoln in his White House office.
July: Edmonia Lewis is born. A woman of Black American and Native American heritage, she will become a well-known sculptor. Her work, which features themes of freedom and anti-enslavement activism, becomes popular after the Civil War and earns her numerous accolades. Lewis depicts African, Black American, and Native American people in her work, and she is particularly recognized for her naturalism within the neoclassical genre.
June 21: Edmonia Highgate is born. She will become a fundraiser, after the Civil War, for the Freedman's Association and the American Missionary Society, whose mission is to educate formerly enslaved people. The group, which remains in existence until 1999, will "dramatically" increase the number of schools and colleges it founds for formerly enslaved people after the Civil war, including Fisk University, Hampton Institute, Tougaloo College, Atlanta University, Dillard University, Talladega College, and Howard University, according to BlackPast.
Museum of the City of New York / Archive Photos / Getty Images
Rebecca Cole is born. She will be the second Black American woman to graduate from medical school and work with Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to graduate from medical school and to become a practicing physician, in New York.
July 19–20: The Woman's Rights Convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Included among its attendees are Frederick Douglass and other male and female anti-enslavement activists. Sixty-eight women and 32 men sign the Declaration of Sentiments.
July: Tubman gains her freedom, returning repeatedly to free more than 300 freedom seekers. Tubman becomes well known as an Underground Railroad conductor, a North American 19th-century Black activist, spy, soldier, and nurse. She served during the Civil War and advocated for civil rights and women's suffrage.
January 13: Charlotte Ray is born. She will become the first Black American woman lawyer in the United States and the first woman admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia.
June 5: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" begins publication as a serial in National Era.
March 10: Hallie Quinn Brown is born. She will become an educator, lecturer, reformer, and Harlem Renaissance figure. Brown will graduate from Wilberforce University in Ohio and teach in schools in Mississippi and South Carolina. In 1885, she will become the dean of Allen University in South Carolina and study at the Chautauqua Lecture School. She will teach public school in Dayton, Ohio, for four years, and then serve as lady principal (dean of women) of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, working with Booker T. Washington.
Johanna July is born. A Black Indigenous person of the Seminole Tribe, she learns to tame horses at an early age and becomes a female cowhand, or "cowgirl."
September 18: The Fugitive Slave Act is passed by Congress. Part of the Compromise of 1850, it is one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in American history. The law requires that enslaved people be returned to their owners, even if they are in a free state. It brings the injustice of enslavement home, making the issue impossible to ignore, and helps inspire Harriet Beecher Stowe to write "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Lucy Stanton graduates from Oberlin Collegiate Institute, now Oberlin College, the first Black American woman to graduate from a four-year college in the U.S.
December: Tubman makes her first trip back to the South to help members of her family to freedom she will make a total of 19 trips back to help freedom seekers to safety.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
May 29: Sojourner Truth gives her "Ain't I A Woman" speech to a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in reaction to male hecklers. Later published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle on June 21, 1851, it begins:
Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images
March 20: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is published in book form, in Boston, selling more than 300,000 copies the first year.
December 13: Frances Wright dies. "Born in Scotland and orphaned at the age of two, (she) rose from rather inauspicious beginnings to fame as a writer and reformer," says the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Wright becomes particularly known for her writings decrying the system of enslavement.
March 24: Cary begins publishing a weekly, The Provincial Freeman, from her exile in Canada, becoming one of the first female journalists in Canada and the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper.
March 31: Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield appears at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and later that year performs before Queen Victoria. Ironically, for the New York performance, no Black people are allowed into the venue to see Greenfield—also known as "The Black Swan"—due to local ordinances.
July 11: Katy Ferguson dies. She has been an educator who ran a school in New York City for poor children.
Sarah Emlen Cresson and John Miller Dickey, a married couple, found Ashmun Institute, to educate African American men. According to the school's website:
The school, still in operation, is renamed Lincoln University in 1866 in honor of the recently assassinated president.
Library of Congress / Getty Images
The Dred Scott decision of the United States Supreme Court declares that African Americans are not U.S. citizens. For almost 10 years, Scott had struggled to regain his freedom—arguing that since he lived with his enslaver, John Emerson, in a free state, he should be free. However, after a long battle, the high court rules that since Scott is not a citizen, he cannot sue in a federal court. Also, as an enslaved person, as property, he and his family have no right to sue in a court of law either, the court rules.
October 2: Lydia Maria Child writes to the Governor Wise of Virginia, regretting the action of John Brown, in raiding the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, but asking for admission to nurse the prisoner. Published in the newspaper, this leads to a correspondence that is also published. In December, Child's responds to a pro-enslavement advocate defending the South's "caring attitude" toward enslaved people, included the famous line, "I have never known an instance where the 'pangs of maternity' did not meet with requisite assistance and here at the North, after we have helped the mothers, we do not sell the babies."
"Our Nig Or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black" by Harriet Wilson is published, the first novel by an African American writer.
She held her own. When she graduated in 1862, it was with high honors. Now, she decided to challenge herself not as a student, but as an educator. After teaching in Ohio for a year, she moved to Virginia. In a letter of recommendation, her principal at Oberlin recommended her as &ldquoa superior scholar, a good singer, a faithful Christian, and a genteel lady.&rdquo
But though he recommended she be paid the most available to women, she only stayed at the job for a year before moving to Philadelphia. There, she taught at the Institute of Colored Youth (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania), the oldest predominantly black institute of higher education in the U.S., before moving to a preparatory high school for African-American youth in Washington, D.C.
Patterson went on to break other barriers. In 1871, she became her school&rsquos first black principal she served in that role for two years until she was demoted in favor of the first black man to graduate from Harvard. She took her position again the next year, but left after nearly a decade when she was told that the thriving school was now so big it needed a man in charge.
As a fellow Oberlin student recalled, &ldquoShe was a woman with a strong, forceful personality, and showed tremendous power for good in establishing high intellectual standards in the public schools.&rdquo
In the years since Patterson&rsquos educational triumph, other contenders for the &ldquofirst&rdquo title she commonly holds have been discovered by historians. One of them, Lucy Stanton Day Sessions, is now thought to be the first black woman to graduate with a degree, but she graduated from a women&rsquos course at Oberlin that did not award a bachelor&rsquos. And Grace A. Mapps, a poet, graduated from a four-year college in New York in 1852, but it is unclear if she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts or some other degree.
Each of these women &mdash and the other African-American women who aren&rsquot named here &mdash fought for an education during a time when Americans could not even agree on whether to they had the right to be citizens. Patterson died in 1894, and though her name is largely forgotten today she left a rich legacy as both an educator and an early example of educational attainment in the African-American community.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell
Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921), was the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the United States. She was also a well-versed public speaker on the social reform issues of her time, and used her religious faith in her efforts to expand women’s rights. Always ahead of her time, she wrote prolifically on religion and science, constructing a theoretical foundation for sexual equality.
Antoinette Louisa Brown was born in Henrietta, New York on May 20, 1825, the daughter of Joseph and Abby Morse Brown. From childhood on she preferred writing and men’s farm chores to housework. Brown’s parents were very religious and, during her childhood, they were inspired by the many of the revivals sweeping through upstate New York at that time.
One Sunday when Antoinette was eight, a visiting preacher challenged the people of her family’s church to give their lives to God. The following week Antoinette told her Sunday School teacher that she wanted to be a minister. The teacher firmly cautioned her that girls could not be ministers.
At the age of sixteen, after completing her requisite early schooling at Monroe County Academy (1838-1840), Brown became a schoolteacher. However, she was not content with that profession and soon set her sights on a degree from Oberlin College in Ohio. In four years of teaching, she saved enough money to cover the cost of her tuition.
Supported by her parents, who believed in equal education for men and women, Brown enrolled at Oberlin in 1846. After receiving her literary degree (the prescribed course for women students) in 1847, Brown requested to be admitted to the theology department in order to train for the ministry.
Although Oberlin espoused education for women, the administration opposed the idea of a female engaging in any kind of theological training. Brown’s family were also against this. Brown was adamant and finally, as a compromise, the faculty allowed her to attend the lectures and to accept invitations to preach, but she would not receive formal recognition for her studies.
While she was at Oberlin, Brown became increasingly involved in the women’s rights, temperance and anti-slavery movements. Despite widespread opposition to public speaking by women, in 1847 Brown
delivered several speeches on temperance in Ohio, and lectured about women’s rights at the Baptist church in her hometown of Henrietta, New York.
However, during the three years that she spent studying theology she was constantly reminded by both faculty and fellow students that the Bible did not approve of women speaking in church. She had to get special permission from her professor and from the Theological Literary Society to speak in class in order to present essays.
In one of these essays, which was published in the Oberlin Quarterly Review, Brown claimed that, in asking women to be silent in church, St. Paul meant only to warn against excesses in public worship. This is where her understanding of what may now be popularly called feminist theology takes shape. She insisted that the Bible’s pronouncements about women were not applicable to the 19th century.
In 1850, Antoinette Brown completed her theological studies at Oberlin College. At the commencement, however, the faculty refused to recognize her studies and withheld the degree in theology. Nor was she given a license to preach.
For the time being Brown decided to put her ministerial ambitions on hold. She traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts, to attend the first National Women’s Rights Convention, giving a speech that was well received. This served as the beginning of a career as an independent lecturer. She spoke throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and New England on social reform issues, and preached sermons on Sundays when invited.
In 1851 she applied for a license to preach in the Congregational Church, but was denied because she was a woman. In 1852 the Church relented and gave Brown a license to preach, but she was not ordained. Sometimes Brown preached in Unitarian churches, including those of Theodore Parker and William Ellery Channing.
In the fall of 1852 Brown received an invitation to serve as minister for the Congregational Church in rural South Butler, New York. She accepted the call, turning down an offer from Horace Greeley and Charles Dana for a substantial salary if she would hold Sunday services in a New York City hall.
Because the Congregational clergy were reluctant to ordain a woman as a minister, on September 15, 1853 Brown was ordained by a socially radical Methodist minister named Luther Lee, a passionate and vocal advocate of women’s right to theological education and leadership.
At her ordination, Lee delivered a sermon testifying to Brown’s suitability as a preacher and her calling from God:
If God and mental and moral culture have not already qualified her… All we are here to do is to subscribe our testimony to the fact that in our belief our sister in Christ, Antoinette L. Brown, is one of the ministers of the New Covenant, authorized, qualified and called by God to preach the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ.
On this ceremony rested her claim to be the first woman ordained by a regular Protestant denomination in the United States. Although later historians would question whether this was the first ordination of a woman, at the time it was recognized as such, and for all of her life Brown was known as the first ordained woman.
Antoinette Brown entered her ministry with enthusiasm. “The pastoral labors at S. Butler suit me even better than I expected,” she wrote, “and my heart is full of hope.” Soon thereafter she officiated at a marriage ceremony in Rochester, New York, the first wedding performed by an American woman minister.
Chosen by her church as a delegate, Brown became the center of a controversy at the 1853 World’s Temperance Convention, where fellow delegates received her credentials but shouted her off the platform, refusing to permit a woman to speak. Supported by members of the Women’s Rights Convention meeting at the same time, she brought a measure of disgrace to the male clergy in attendance.
Brown was also unprepared for the openly critical attitudes of women in her own parish, who had been long conditioned to regard the minister as a father figure. Even her intimate friends in the women’s rights movement –
Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony – did not think it worthwhile for women to expend their efforts forcing entrance into an institution as corrupt and outdated as the church.
Unfortunately, Luther Lee’s unqualified support was not enough to provide Brown with a sustainable lifestyle at South Butler. In the meantime Brown had no one to counsel her in a deepening emotional crisis, and growing religious doubts increasingly troubled her. After just ten months, she resigned from the South Butler church in July 1854. It would be ten years before another woman was ordained.
A short period of rest at her family’s farm in Henrietta improved Brown’s health. Anthony encouraged her to help with the campaign for women’s right to own property in New York State. Feeling that she was once again needed, Brown began lecturing again. However, Brown was steadfast in her belief that women’s active participation in religion could serve to further their status in society.
Beginning in 1855, Brown spent a year doing volunteer work with Abigail Hopper Gibbons in the slums and prisons of New York City. Brown studied the causes of mental and social disorders, and how these affected the lives of women in poverty. She wrote a series of articles for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, the first of which focused on the “shadow of poverty” hovering over the streets of the city. She published these collected articles as the book Shadows of Our Social System in 1856.
During this time Antoinette Brown was courted by fellow reformer Samuel Charles Blackwell, a real estate dealer and hardware salesman from Cincinnati, Ohio, and the brother of Lucy Stone’s husband, Henry Blackwell. Samuel and Henry also had famous sisters: doctor and educator Emily Blackwell and Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.
Marriage and Family
On January 24, 1856, at the fieldstone house in Henrietta where she had spent her childhood, Antoinette Brown married Samuel Blackwell. Between 1856 and 1869 she bore seven children. Of the five daughters who survived to adulthood, Florence became a Methodist minister, Edith and Ethel became physicians, and Agnes an artist and art teacher. Grace suffered from depression which prevented her from taking on challenging work.
After the wedding, Brown moved with the extended Blackwell family – many of whom were active in reform movements – from Cincinnati to New York City and later to New Jersey. Except for brief periods of lecturing and travel and an interlude in New York City between 1896 and 1901, Brown resided in various communities in northern New Jersey for the rest of her life.
Brown discontinued her lecturing career after domestic duties took up most of her time. Writing became her new outlet for initiating positive change for women writing articles for the Woman’s Journal, edited by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell. In her works Brown encouraged women to seek masculine professions, and asked men to share household duties, yet she retained the belief that women’s primary role was care of the home and family.
During the Civil War Brown, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the Women’s National Loyal League in support of African American emancipation and enfranchisement. Unlike many of her peers, Brown cared more about improving women’s status in society than for suffrage (the right to vote). She believed that suffrage, would have little positive impact on women’s lives unless it was coupled with leadership opportunities.
Brown, contrary to many of her fellow suffragists, supported the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which granted suffrage to all men irrespective of color, but not for women. In 1869, Brown and Lucy Stone separated from other women’s rights activists to form the American Woman Suffrage Association.
After the Civil War Blackwell lectured on women’s struggle for equality and the right to vote. Though she had a sympathetic husband she still struggled to combine marriage and her “intellectual work.” In an 1873 paper for the Association for the Advancement of Women she advocated part time work for married women, with their husbands helping out with child care and housework.
As her children got older, she wrote and published several books about science and philosophy, including Studies in General Science (1869), The Physical Basis of Immortality (1876) and The Philosophy of Individuality (1893). In 1871 she published a novel The Island Neighbors, and in 1902 a book of poetry entitled Sea Drift or Tribute to the Ocean.
In her book The Sexes Throughout Nature (1875), Brown argued that evolution resulted in two sexes that were different but equal, challenging Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer whom she considered to be the most influential men of her day, aware that she would be considered presumptuous for criticizing evolutionary theory. In 1881 she was one of the few women elected to membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
After her husband’s business failed in the late 1870s, Brown returned to the lecture circuit, again traveling throughout the country. At women’s rights and suffrage conventions, she was frequently called upon to speak and to officiate at or assist in religious services. In 1878 Oberlin College awarded Brown an honorary Master’s Degree.
Brown had avoided aligning herself with any religious sect until she and her husband began visiting Unitarian churches in New York City in early 1878. She applied to the American Unitarian Association and was recognized as a minister later that year. Discouraged by the lack of opportunities that suited her family situation, by the end of 1879 she had decided to settle for occasional preaching.
Antoinette Brown was elected president of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association in 1891, and helped found the American Purity Association, which supported efforts to prevent state regulation of prostitution and to reform the social relations of the sexes. She also lectured on behalf of the poor of New York City.
In 1893 she attended the Parliament of Religions during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where she stated:
Women are needed in the pulpit as imperatively and for the same reason that they are needed in the world – because they are women. Women have become – or when the ingrained habit of unconscious imitation has been superseded, they will become – indispensable to the religious evolution of the human race.
Samuel Blackwell died in October 1901 and a year later, Brown spoke at the funeral of fellow suffragist and friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Yet, in spite of her advancing age and the deaths of close friends and reform allies, Brown continued to participate in suffrage activities, where she was acknowledged with increasing admiration. While traveling on a train to a NAWSA convention in 1905, she and other suffragists were greeted along the way by admirers, asked to give speeches and interviews with reporters, and given ovations and praise.
Brown also continued her leading role in religion throughout her life. In 1902 she helped found the Unitarian Society of Elizabeth, New Jersey, serving as its minister. She was also instrumental in establishing the All Souls Unitarian Church in Elizabeth, where she served as pastor emeritus from 1908 until her death.
Brown attended women’s suffrage conventions until she was well into her eighties. After the NAWSA Convention of 1906, Brown and Anne Fitzhugh Miller spoke at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage in Washington, DC. Oberlin granted Brown an honorary Doctoral Degree in 1908.
In 1920, at age 95, Antoinette Brown Blackwell – the last surviving delegate to the first national women’s rights convention at Worcester, Massachusetts in 1850 – saw the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. She was one of the very few pioneer suffragists who voted on November 2, 1920, casting her ballot for Warren G. Harding.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell died on November 5, 1921 in Elizabeth, New Jersey at age 96. Her remains were cremated.
In 1975 the United Church of Christ began awarding the Antoinette Brown Award to ordained UCC women who “exemplify the contributions that women can make through ordained ministry…”
1838- Oberlin Admits Women - History
Before 1833, women were not allowed to do many things. For instance, women could not attend colleges. Men took these college classes to become qualified as ministers, professors, lawyers and doctors. Oberlin College is known for two great social reforms. It was the first college in the world to admit women as well as men. It also was the first college that promised to educate African-American men and women. Today, nearly all colleges and universities teach black and white men and women, but in the 1830s this was unheard of. For many years, Oberlin was the only place where black women could take college classes. One of the reasons women did not go to college in those days was because they could not become ministers, doctors, or lawyers. At Oberlin, people believed that women could become even better teachers, wives, and mothers if they were able to take college classes along with men. 2
In 1835, African Americans were rarely treated as equals, let alone allowed to attend college. That changed at Oberlin when the Lane Seminary Rebels brought their African American friends to learn with them at the college. Oberlin's acceptance of African Americans came before the civil war. A time when slavery was still legal. This was a radical accomplishment for its time. 3 To add to its success, Oberlin was also the first college to accept both African Americans and women. 4
The Church of the United Brethren in Christ founded Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, in 1847. The college was originally known as the Otterbein University of Ohio and received its charter from the state in 1849. Admitting eight students in 1847, the school graduated its first class in 1857. The college was named after Philip William Otterbein, one of the founders of the United Brethren Church. The Church of the United Brethren later merged with the United Methodist Church.
From its beginning, Otterbein has taken pride in the diversity of its students. From the outset, the college admitted women as well as men and permitted them to pursue the same programs of study. At most colleges, women did not take the same classes as men, because many people believed that women could not handle the stress of a traditional college schedule. Otterbein's founders disagreed and women were successful at the college from the beginning. The first two students to receive diplomas from Otterbein were women. Following the example set by Oberlin College, Otterbein was one of the first colleges in the United States to admit students of any race. The school was also one of the first coeducational colleges in the United States to hire women as faculty members. Otterbein students were involved in a number of reform movements in the nineteenth century. Many students became involved in abolitionism, women's rights, and temperance activities.
Otterbein has also had a long history of both faculty and students having a significant voice in decision-making at the college. For faculty, this tradition goes back to the 1850s and 1860s. Students began to have more of a voice after World War II.List of site sources >>>