Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who became a leading abolitionist.  She led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Notes to Women salute this brave woman who suffered hardship and physical violence. When she crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania, she was overwhelmed with relief and awe.  Of this experience, she said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

This taste of freedom was something that she wanted others to experience.   So, instead of staying there in the North where it was safe, she made it her mission to rescue her family and others who were still living in slavery.  She earned the nickname “Moses” for leading others to freedom.

Harriet made history as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.   She was named one of the most famous civilians in American History before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Today, she continues to be an inspiration to generations of Americans who are still struggling for civil rights.

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.

I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.

I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.

I said to de Lord, ‘I’m goin’ to hold steady on to you, an’ I know you’ll see me through.’

Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.

 

Sources:  Biography; Brainy Quote

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Fanny Kemble

If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good – Thomas J. Watson

I never heard of Fanny Kemble until I recently read a devotion, The Unlikely in Our Daily Bread which mentions her work as an Abolitionist.  She was a British actress in the 19th century who married Pierce Butler, an American fan.  Fanny didn’t know that he was soon to inherit two plantations.  Had she known, most probably she would not have married him.  Little did she know that she would soon be fighting her own civil war.

Fanny Kemble was born in England in 1809 into a prominent family of actors.  Although she was very accomplished in her acting, it was not her true love.  Writing was her passion and throughout her she would write plays, journals, poetry, letters and memoirs.  Her most famous authorship would be that of Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation which many consider to be the closest, most detailed account of the harsh conditions of plantation slavery.

Fanny was a strong, spirited woman with no formal training in acting but she managed to captivate audiences.  She had what were considered to be masculine traits: she was independent, physically strong and highly intelligent.  She was talented, spoke French fluently and was accomplished in music.  She embraced life and enjoyed exercise, specifically riding.  To her the best way to was to break “my neck off the back of my horse at a full gallop on a fine day”.  This reminds me of my former boss whose wish was to die being mauled to death by a polar bear.  Whatever happened to wanting to die peacefully in one’s sleep?

Fanny met her future husband Pierce when she and her father went on a two-year theatre tour in America.  It wasn’t her desire to experience life in America but she did it to please her father.  She was well received by the Americans and captured the ardent attention of Pierce Butler, a man born into wealthy and prominent family from Philadelphia.  His grandfather was Revolutionary War veteran Major Pierce Butler.  Major Butler was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and the author of the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause.  He owned two plantations in Georgia, one was on St. Simon’s Island where sea-island cotton was grown and the other was on Butler Island where rice was grown.  One day, his grandson would inherit this mass fortune, making history as one of the largest slaveholders in the nation.

Pierce, infatuated with Fanny, followed her while she toured and she fell in love with this charming and attentive man.  She married him as a way of escaping life in the theatre which was beset with her family’s unstable financial future.  She was marrying into wealth but didn’t find out what the source of that wealth was until after they got married.

It was a marriage that was doomed from the beginning.  She believed that he would always be devoted to her and he believed that he could control her.  And their differences on slavery did not help matters.  He thought he could get her to see the benefits of the institution while she thought she could get him to free his slaves.  When she tried to publish an antislavery treatise she had written, Pierce forbade her to do so.  After he and his brother John inherited the Georgia plantations, Fanny wanted to see the plantation and begged but Pierce to take her with him but he refused.  Then in December of 1838 he took her and their two daughters and their Irish nurse to Butler Island.  Nothing could have prepared Fanny for  what she witnessed at this place.  Inspite of the beautiful surroundings, she could not escape the ugly presence of slavery.  She said, “I should like the wild savage loneliness of the far away existence extremely if it were not for the one small item of the slavery.”

Fanny and Pierce clashed over their views of slavery and their marriage began to deteriorate.  In 1845 Fanny left Pierce and children and returned to England where she resumed her stage career.  Pierce sued for divorce, claiming that she had “willfully, maliciously, and without due cause, deserted him on September 11, 1845”.  Three years later, on April 7, 1848, he filed for divorce.  Fanny returned to America to defend herself against his charges and after a long and painful court battle, the divorce was granted a year later with Pierce having full custody of the girls.  Fanny was allowed to spend two months very summer with them and receive $1500 yearly in alimony.

While Fanny was able to support herself in the U.S. and Europe with her Shakespearean readings, Pierce fell into financial ruin, gambling away his fortune.  He ended up in huge debt which led to the selling of the mansion in Philadelphia and the liquidation of other properties.  Unfortunately, this was not enough so the trustees turned their focus on the property in Georgia where the slaves were.  This led to the largest single sale of human beings in United States history and the event known as “the weeping time” as slaves were separated from their families.

After the war Pierce and his daughter Frances returned to Butler Island where he arranged for former slaves to work for him as sharecroppers.  He later contracted malaria and died.  Fanny moved to Philadelphia where she continued to perform dramatic readings.  She travelled and published her journals.  On January 15, 1893, Fanny died peacefully in London.

Notes to Women want to acknowledge this woman who spoke out against an institution and practice which violated the rights of people based on their race.  Moved with compassion and a sense of decency, Fanny set out to reform the plantations.  She set up a hostel and nursery for those in need and paid the slaves who personally tended to her.  She improved the hygiene of the slave children by rewarding cleanliness with small prizes.   Her critics saw her efforts at reform as foolish and sided with her husband but we applaud Fanny for the stance she took against slavery and her resolve to do what she could to help the slaves and for raising awareness through her firsthand observations.  If you are interested in reading about her experiences, you can read them in her diary here.

In Fanny’s eyes, acquiring wealth from the forced labor and enslavement of others is unconscionable. She was convinced that slavery was wrong and inhumane and refused to be silenced on the matter.  She stuck to her convictions and today, her journal continues to be a primary source of education on the reality of slavery.

[On disagreeing with her husband about his slave-holding:] I cannot give my conscience into the keeping of another human being or submit the actions dictated by my conscience to their will.

I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty, knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution.

In the north we could not hope to keep the worst and poorest servant for a single day in the wretched discomfort in which our negro servants are forced habitually to live.

I said I thought female labour of the sort exacted from these slaves, and corporal chastisement such as they endure, must be abhorrent to any manly or humane man.

The Southern newspapers, with their advertisements of negro sales and personal descriptions of fugitive slaves, supply details of misery that it would be difficult for imagination to exceed. Scorn, derision, insult, menace – the handcuff, the last – the tearing away of children from parents, of husbands from wives – the weary trudging in droves along the common highways, the labor of body, the despair of mind, the sickness of heart – these are the realities which belong to the system, and form the rule, rather that the exception, in the slave’s experience.

A good many causes tend to make good masters and mistresses quite as rare as good servants…. The large and rapid fortunes by which vulgar and ignorant people become possessed of splendid houses, splendidly furnished, do not, of course, give them the feelings and manners of gentle folks, or in any way really raise them above the servants they employ, who are quite aware of this fact, and that the possession of wealth is literally the only superiority their employers have over them.

Though the Negroes are fed, clothed, and housed, and though the Irish peasant is starved, naked, and roofless, the bare name of freemen-the lordship over his own person, the power to choose and will-are blessings beyond food, raiment, or shelter; possessing which, the want of every comfort of life is yet more tolerable than their fullest enjoyment without them.

When marriage is what it ought to be, it is indeed the very happiest condition of existence.

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Sources:  PBS, Pabook Libraries, New Georgia Encyclopedia; Brainy Quotes; AZ Quotes; Stand Up Quotes

Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney

She made history as the first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States. Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Her parents, originally from North Carolina, were freed slaves. They moved north before the Civil War, where they would face less discrimination. Mary Eliza attended the Philips School, one of the first integrated schools in Boston.

From an early age, Mary Eliza knew that she wanted to be a nurse. For fifteen years, she worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, now known as the Dimock Community Health Centre, before she was accepted into its nursing school, the first in the United States. She was 33 years old when she was admitted.

After she received her nursing diploma, Mary Eliza worked for many years as a private care nurse. She worked for predominantly white, wealthy families who praised her for her efficiency. Her professionalism raised the bar for others in her profession, especially among minorities. She was recognized for her skills and preparedness. And this reputation earned her the respect of some of the families she worked for who insisted that she join them for dinner but she was a humble woman. She ate her meals with the household staff she worked with.

Her reputation opened many doors for Mary Eliza whose goal was to change the way of patients and their families thought of minority nurses. She wanted to abolish any discrimination that existed in the nursing field, believing that it had no place there and that all people should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams without any fear of racial discrimination.

Mary Eliza served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island, New York from 1911 to 1912. The asylum served as a home for freed colored children and the colored elderly and it was run by African Americans. It was at this institution that Mary Eliza ended her nursing career.

In 1896, Mary Eliza became one of the original members of Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NAAUSC) which later became known as the American Nurses Association (ANA). In the early 1900s, the NAAUSC, a predominantly white association, did not welcome African American nurses into their association, so, Mary Eliza retaliated by founding a new and more welcoming nurses’ association with the help of other founders. In 1908, she was the co-founders of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Not surprisingly, this association did not discriminate against anyone and its goal was to support and congratulate the accomplishments in the registered nursing field and to eliminate racial discrimination in the nursing community. A year later, Mary Eliza spoke at the NACGN’s first annual convention and in her speech, she documented the inequalities in her nursing education and in the nursing education at the time. She was given a lifetime membership in the NACGN and a position of chaplain.

During her retirement, Mary Eliza was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage. In 1920, after women’s suffrage was achieved in the United States, she was among the first women in Boston who registered to vote. She was an active participant in the advancement of Civil Rights in the United States. She died in 1926 at the age of 80.

Notes to Women salutes this woman who was and still is an example of professionalism and champion for civil rights and women’s rights. She challenged discrimination against women of African Americans in nursing and proved that she had what it took to enjoy a very successful career and at the same time, transcend racial barriers. She held firm to the conviction that everyone should be able to achieve their dreams without having to deal with racial discrimination.

She was the first woman in the United States to graduate as a registered nurse. A pioneer for the nursing profession, she received many honors and awards and inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the epitome of professionalism and an outstanding example for nurses of all races. In recognition of this, the NACGN established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936.

We are forever indebted to Mary Eliza for paving the way for the advancement of equal opportunities in nursing for minorities.

 

Mary Eliza Mahoney
Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Eliza_Mahoney

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the eldest of thirteen children.  She was born on October 9, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Her great-grandfather was Hans Schad, alias John Shadd, who served as Hessian soldier with the British army during the French and Indian War.  Her father, Abraham Doras Shadd was trained as a shoemaker and owned a shop in Wilmington and later in the nearby town of West Chester, Pennsylavania.  In these two places, he was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and involved in other civil rights activities.  He was an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and in 1833 he was named President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Colour.

It’s not surprising that the Shadd family moved to Pennyslavania when it became illegal to educate African American children in the the state of Delaware.  In Pennyslavania, Mary attended a Quaker school.  In 1840 Mary Ann returned to West Chester where she established a school for black children.  She taught in Norristown, Pennsylvania and New York City.  Three years later, Abraham was forced to move his family to Canada, settling in North Buxton, Ontario.  The reason of this move was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  The law threatened to return free northern blacks and escaped slaves into bondage.   In 1858, Abraham D. Shadd became the first black man to be elected to political office in Canada.

Mary Ann founded a racially integrated school in Windsor with the support of the American Missionary Association.  She ran The Provincial Freeman, an anti-slavery newspaper which made her the first female editor in North America.  Her brother, Isaac managed the business affairs of the newspaper and at his home he hosted meetings to plan the raid on Harper’s Ferry.

Mary Ann traveled around Canada and the United States, an advocate for full racial integration though education and self-reliance.  She promoted emigration to Canada amongst freemen.  In 1855 when she attempted to participate in the Philadelphia Colored Convention, the assembly debated whether or not to even allow her to sit as a delegate.  She was viewed as a controversial figure becuase of her advocacy for emigration.  By 15 votes she was admitted and according to Frederick Douglass’ Paper, although she gave a speech advocating for emigration, she was so well received that the delegates voted that she be given ten more minutes to speak.  Unfortunately, her presence at the Convention was omitted from the minutes most likely because she was a woman.  How sad.  Here we have blacks who know what it’s like to be discriminated because of color and yet they were discriminating against Mary Ann because she was a woman.  How difficult it was to be a black woman in those days.  She faced prejudice because of her color and prejudice because of her gender.

In 1856 Mary Ann married a Toronto barber named Thomas F. Cary who was involved with the Provincial Freeman.  They had a daughter and a son.  After Thomas died in 1860, Mary Ann and their children returned to the United States.

During the Civil War, at the request of abolitionist, Martin Delany, she served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army in the state of Indiana.  After the Civil War, she went back to teaching.  She taught in the black schools in Wilmington before she moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught in public schools and attended Howard University School of Law.  In 1883, at the age of 60, she graducated as a lawyer, becoming the second black woman in the United States to earn a law degree.  Age didn’t slow this remarkable woman down.  Not only was she writing for newspapers such as National Era and The People’s Advocate but she organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise.  She joined the National Woman Suffrage Association where she worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage.  They testified before the Judiciary Committee of the House of the Representatives.

Mary Ann Shadd died in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 1893.  She was interred at Columbian Harmony Cemetery.  She left behind her a great legacy.  Her former residence in the U Street Corridor was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.  In 1987 the National Women’s History Project designated her a Women’s History Month Honoree and Canada honored her by designating her a Person of National Historic Significance.

Like her father, Mary Ann was an advocate for civil rights –the right to freedom and education among blacks.  She was an anti-slavery activist, journalist, teacher and lawyer.  She was a wife and mother.  She was a wonderful example to her children.  She taught them that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  No one should have their freedom and right to education taken away from them.

Notes to Women salute this amazing woman who showed us that the things we sometimes take for granted are to be cherished.  Freedom and education are two things we should fiercely guard.  There are some countries in the world where human rights are violated.  Women are treated as second class citizens or worse, girls are denied education and Christians are denied the freedom to worship.  Be thankful for the freedoms you currently have.

“Self-reliance Is the Fine Road to Independence.”

 

220px-Mary_Ann_Shadd

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ann_Shadd;

http://www.womeninhistoryohio.com/mary-ann-shadd-cary.html