Harriet Tubman on Slavery is the Next Thing to Hell

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Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) was recognized as a hero in her own day. An escaped slave, she repeatedly went back to the south and led other slaves to freedom, saving thousands. Outspoken and fearless, she was a passionate and influential speaker in both the abolitionist movement and in the fight for women's rights. It is very …

Maria Montessori on the Absorbent Mind

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“I did not invent a method of education, I simply gave some little children a chance to live.”  Maria Montessori Born in 1870 in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy, Maria Montessori refused to follow the expected path for girls of her time. Defying the prejudice of the time, Montessori became the first woman to attend …

Beryl Markham on Flying

What if you wrote a book, and then people said you didn't write it, and then people said you did, and then people said it doesn't really matter anyway. Meet Beryl Markham (1902-1986). Beryl Markham grew up on her father's horse farm in Kenya. She became the first licensed woman horse trainer in Kenya and …

Frances Burney on What If Nobody Were Female

At the age of fifteen Frances Burney (17752-1840), despite the tears of her younger sister, tossed the plays, poems and first novel she had written on to a bonfire. Why? She was consumed with guilt. In 1767 women were not supposed to spend their time writing anything but private letters. Better they perform useful household …

Caroline Lee Hentz on a Child’s Yearning

Caroline Lee Hentz (1800-1856), one of America's most popular writers in the 1850s, sold over 93,000 copies of her more than fifteen novels and a multitude of short stories and poems. The Boston Library named her one of the top three writers of her day. Born in Massachusetts, she married a dashing French artist, writer, …

Adah Issacs Menken on Working and Waiting

"Good women are rarely clever, and clever women are rarely good." Ada Issacs Menken Adah Issacs Menken (1835 to 1869) was a Civil War era actress, sex symbol, and pin-up girl.  She was also a dedicated writer publishing 20 essays, 100 poems, and many newspaper articles. Menken may have been born Adelaide McCord in Chartrain …

Ning Lao T’ai-t’ai on the Life of a Beggar

In the 1930s Ida Pruitt, an American living in Peking, recorded the oral life history of Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai, the elderly mother of a man working for her husband. Ning lived in the city of Penglai in Shedong Province of China in second half of the 1800s and the early 1900s. Married to a man who was an opium …

Rosa Parks on Being a Regular Person

The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.   Rosa Parks Christened "The First Lady of Civil Rights" Rosa Parks made history on a February day in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Because this was against the segregation laws of Alabama, Rosa Parks was …

Helen Keller on I Hesitate to Write

"I am only one, but still I am one." I cannot do everything, but I can still do something;  and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do." Helen Keller Perhaps you have seen the movie The Miracle Worker. Perhaps as a child you read a book about the …

Sarah Josepha Hale on Beginning a Novel

If you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday, you can thank Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1877). Hale, the first woman magazine editor in the United States, petitioned Presidents for 17 years until Abraham Lincoln established the day in 1863. Hale believed in educating girls  (She later helped establish Vassar College) having obtained her education second-hand from her brother …

George Sand on the Working Man

How I wish I could impart to you this sense of the intensity and joyousness of life that I have in my veins. To live! How sweet it is, and how good, in spite of annoyances, husbands, debts, relations, scandal-mongers, sufferings, and irritations! To live! It is intoxicating! To love, and to be loved! It …

Elizabeth Ellet on Women of the American Revolution

Have you ever heard of Mercy Warren, Esther Reed, Mary Philpse, or Sarah Bache? Elizabeth Fries Ellet (1818-1877) immortalized these and numerous other women in her ground-breaking work  The Women of the American Revolution in 2 volumes published in 1848. Ellet was a prolific writer who, in addition to translations, poetry, country rambles, and domestic works, …

Anne Frank on Paper as Patience

Anne Frank would have been 84 this month. Born June 12, 1929 in Frankfort, Germany Anne Frank's diary is world-renowned, even though she wrote it as a young girl of thirteen. Forty-five million copies  of the diary, composed when her family and she were hiding from the Nazis during World War II, have been sold, and it has been translated into …

Louisa May Alcott on Washing the Wounded

"I WANT something to do." This remark being addressed to the world in general, no one in particular felt it their duty to reply; so I repeated it to the smaller world about me, received the following suggestions, and settled the matter by answering my own inquiry, as people are apt to do when very …

Anne Bradstreet on Offspring of My Feeble Brain

How would you feel if someone made copies of your private poems, carried them across the ocean, and unbeknownst to you published them in a book? Anne Dudley Bradstreet arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. She was among the first Puritans to settle in Salem, New England. A well-educated woman from a well-to-do …

Judith Sargent Murray on the Female Mind

"What a censorious world says of me, cannot offend me or permanently hurt me. Was it to commend me, it would do me no real service...I'd rather have an unspotted conscience." Judith Sargent Murray (1751 to 1820) was the most prominent woman essayist of her time. She was also a poet, a playwright, and a novelist. …

Flannery O’Connor on Too Much Interpretation

Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) is best known for her short stories set in the South. Often about religious theme ,her stories are often humorous, but with a disturbing quality underneath that leaves the reader faintly puzzled and uneasy. As a child she grew up in Savanna, Georgia, went to Catholic school, drew cartoons, and wrote stories. Later when she had …

Aphra Behn on Foppery

"All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn … for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Virginia Wolf The first woman to make a living solely from her writing is Aphra Behn (1640-1689) who lived in the time of the English Restoration under Charles the 2nd. …

Clara Barton on Weaving with Flying Fingers

Clara Barton celebrates a birthday this week. She was born on Christmas Day 1821. She was the first woman appointed to government office at the same wage as a man, although her salary was later reduced, and then the job eliminated altogether. During the Civil War she procured food and medicine and carried it to the front …