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Cowles, Betsey Mix (09 February 1810–25 July 1876), educator and reformer, was born in Bristol, Connecticut, the daughter of Giles Hooker Cowles, a Congregationalist minister, and Sally White. To support their family of eight children, Cowles’s parents moved the family to the fledgling town of Austinburg in Ohio’s western reserve shortly after her birth. Two more children came along later. Cowles’s early education took place in subscription schools. Before the spread of state-funded public schools, parents who wished to educate their children had to make arrangements with traveling schoolmasters. Cowles herself joined the ranks of such teachers at age sixteen and taught in many communities throughout northeastern Ohio and western New York....

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Craft, Ellen (1826?–1891), abolitionist and educator, was born on a plantation in Clinton, Georgia, the daughter of Major James Smith, a wealthy cotton planter, and Maria, his slave. At the age of eleven Ellen was given by her mistress (whose “incessant cruelty” Craft was later to recall) as a wedding present to Ellen’s half sister Eliza on the young woman’s marriage to Robert Collins of Macon, Georgia. Ellen became a skilled seamstress and ladies’ maid, esteemed for her grace, intelligence, and sweetness of temper. In Macon she met another slave two years her senior, ...

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Crandall, Prudence (03 September 1803–28 January 1890), abolitionist and teacher, was born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, the daughter of Pardon Crandall, a Quaker farmer, and Esther Carpenter. When Crandall was ten her family moved to another farm in Canterbury, Connecticut. As a young woman she spent a few years (1825–1826, 1827–1830) at the New England Friends’ Boarding School in Providence and also taught school for a time in Plainfield, Connecticut....

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Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-37939).

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Davis, Paulina Kellogg Wright (07 August 1813–24 August 1876), abolitionist, suffragist, and educator, was born in Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Captain Ebenezer Kellogg and Polly Saxton. In 1817 the family moved to an undeveloped area near Niagara Falls. Davis’s enjoyment of the frontier’s exhilirating freedom ended with the deaths of her parents. In 1820 she went to live with a strict orthodox Presbyterian aunt in LeRoy, New York, where she was educated and attended church regularly....

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Douglass, Sarah Mapps (09 September 1806–08 September 1882), abolitionist and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Douglass, Sr., a prosperous hairdresser from the island of St. Kitts, and Grace Bustill, a milliner. Her mother was the daughter of Cyrus Bustill, a prominent member of Philadelphia’s African-American community. Raised as a Quaker by her mother, Douglass was alienated by the blatant racial prejudice of many white Quakers. Although she adopted Quaker dress and enjoyed the friendship of Quaker antislavery advocates like ...

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Sarah Moore Grimké. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-1608).

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Grimké, Sarah Moore (26 November 1792–23 December 1873), abolitionist, writer-educator, and women's rights pioneer, abolitionist, writer-educator, and women’s rights pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of John Faucheraud Grimké, chief judge of the state supreme court, and Mary Smith. Sarah was educated by private tutors in subjects considered proper for well-bred southern girls—among them, French, watercolors, harpsichord, and embroidery. But from her older brother Thomas, a student at Yale, she learned Latin, Greek, mathematics, and geography. Raised in the upper classes of Charleston, Sarah gained firsthand experience with prosperity’s underside, African slavery. Her father “owned” several hundred slaves, some of whom she taught to read before he (and the law of the state) forbade it....

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William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease

Holley, Sallie (17 February 1818–12 January 1893), abolitionist and educator, was born in Canandaigua, New York, the daughter of Myron Holley, treasurer of the Erie Canal Commission and subsequently an anti-Masonic and Liberty party activist and editor, and Sally House. When Holley was three, the family moved to nearby Lyons, where she spent her childhood and adolescence helping care for her younger siblings, attending briefly a local academy, and absorbing her father’s reform zeal. The stimulation that his college education and liberal Unitarian faith provided far overshadowed the influence of her mother’s piety in shaping Holley’s future....

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Mercer, Margaret (01 July 1791–17 September 1846), antislavery reformer and educator, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the daughter of John Francis Mercer, a politician, and Sophia Sprigg. Margaret, a quiet, frail child, spent most of her childhood in Annapolis, where her father held a variety of public offices, including service as governor for one term. Her family also spent time at their ancestral country home, “Cedar Park.” Intelligent and scholarly, Margaret completed a postsecondary education under the supervision of her father, a man known for his liberal views. Following in his footsteps, Margaret devoted herself to her church and donated time and money to local Sunday schools, which provided elementary education as well as religious instruction to the poor....

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Pugh, Sarah (06 October 1800–01 August 1884), abolitionist and teacher, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the daughter of Quakers Jesse Pugh and Catharine Jackson. After Pugh’s father died when she was two, she moved with her mother and brother Isaac to the Chester County, Pennsylvania, home of her grandfather, Isaac Jackson, a longtime Quaker opponent of slavery. Several years later the family moved to Philadelphia, where her mother became a dressmaker. Pugh studied for two years at the Friends’ Westtown Boarding School in rural Pennsylvania....

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Putnam, Caroline F. (29 July 1826–14 January 1917), abolitionist and educator, was born in Massachusetts, the daughter of a Dr. Putnam, a physician, and Eliza Carpenter. Of her father’s first name, her middle name, or the town of her birth, nothing is known. Her father died in her early childhood; her mother was remarried in 1840 to Levi Peet, a farmer of modest means from the village of Farmersville, New York....