African American Women in Antebellum America

Amid the harshness of slavery, American women of African descent managed to preserve the culture of their ancestry and articulate their struggles. Black female poets and writers emerged throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Many prominent free black women in the North were active in the Abolitionist Movement.

Slave Women
Enslaved women in every state of the antebellum Union undoubtedly considered escaping from bondage, but relatively few attempted it - often to …Read More...

Pioneer for Women in the Medical Professions

Mary Putnam Jacobi was a prominent physician, author, scientist, activist, educator, and perhaps most importantly, a staunch advocate of women's right to seek medical education and training. Men in medicine claimed that a medical education would make women physically ill, and that women physicians endangered their profession. Jacobi worked to prove them wrong and argued that it was social restrictions that threatened female health.

Image: Mary Corinna Putnam as a medical student, 1860s

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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was a publisher, journalist and editor of Women's Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women. She is perhaps best remembered for her role in establishing the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs.

First Woman Eye Surgeon and Prison Reform Activist

Image: Dr. Bella Chapin Barrows
Credit: Hartland Historical Society
Artist unknown

Dr. Bella Chapin Barrows accomplished many firsts in her 68 years of life. She was the first woman employed by the U.S. State Department, first woman to have a private medical practice in Washington DC, first woman ophthalmologist (a specialist in eye ailments) in the United States, first woman eye surgeon, and first woman professor at a medical school …Read More...