Category Archives: suffragette

Frederick Douglas 2.14.13 Thought of the Day

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

A sketch of Douglass, from the 1845 edition of...

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born on this day in Talbot County, Maryland, USA in 1818. Today is the 195th anniversary of his birth.

The exact day and year of his birth is unknown, but he decided on February 14th, 1818.  He never met his father, a white man,  and almost never saw his mother.  He lived with his grandparents in their cabin west of the Tuckahoe Creek. In his first autobiography he wrote:

“I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.” [Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Written by himself. (1851)

At seven he was sent to Wye House plantation near Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland. Soon he was sent to Hugh Auld a Baltimore carpenter. Auld’s wife, Sophia,  taught him to read until the master (her husband)  stopped her. Hugh Auld thought teaching slaves lead to rebellious slaves. Frederick practiced reading and writing in secret. When he was in Baltimore he heard about Abolition for the first time, and in 1831 he  read an article “on John Quincy Adams’s antislavery petitions in Congress” [Frederick Douglass Timeline]

At 13 he was sent to the shipping town of St. Michael’s, Maryland to work for Thomas Auld. When Auld discovered that Frederick was teaching other slaves to read he rented him out to a brutal slavebreaker, Edward Covey.”The treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.” “ []

In 1838 he was back in Baltimore hired out to work as a caulker in a shipyard. He made his escape to freedom by…

Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass. [Ibid]

Douglass became active in the Abolitionist movement. He became a “licensed preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.” [Frederick Douglass Timeline] In 1841 he spoke at an antislavery meeting in New Bedford about his life in Maryland. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society hired him as a speaker.

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people didn’t believe that a former slave could speak so eloquently and assumed Douglass was a fraud. In response to that criticism he wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In 1845 he toured England and Ireland to raise money to buy his freedom. (Auld  manumitted him for $711.66.) Douglass used the remaining money from the Great Britain tour to buy a printing press and began to publish the North Star, a weekly Abolitionist paper. The paper later became the Frederick Douglass’ Paper and is joined in 1859 by the Douglass’ Monthy.

In 1855 he published his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom. During the American Civil War Douglass was a recruiter for the all African-American 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

After the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (which outlaws slavery) Douglass continued to fight for civil rights and woman’s rights. A fringe political party, The Equal Rights Party nominated Douglass as its vice-presidential Nominee in 1872.

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrativ...

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1881 he published his final autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

He was appointed to the post of US Marshal of the District of Columbia and the Recorder of Deed of the District of Columbia before becoming Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti in 1889.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frederick Douglass died on February 20th, 1895 of heart failure.

The gravestone of Frederick Douglass located a...

Martha Carey Thomas 1.2.13 Thought of the Day

John Singer Sargent's Miss Carey Thomas [Image courtesy]

John Singer Sargent’s Miss Carey Thomas [Image courtesy]

“One thing I am determined on is that by the time I die my brain shall weigh as much as a man’s if study and learning can make it so.”
Martha Carey Thomas

Martha Carey Thomas was born on this day in Baltimore, Maryland, USA  in 1857. Today is the 155th anniversary of her birth.

M. Carey Thomas as a child [Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery]

M. Carey Thomas as a child [Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery]

She was the eldest of ten children in a prominent Quaker family. She got her feminist streak from her mother and maternal aunt, Hannah Whitall Smith. She studied at the Society of Friends school in Baltimore, then at Howland Institute, a Quaker boarding school near Ithaca, New York. When her education at this  “dame’s school” ended in the 1860’s she yearned for the chance for further education open to her brothers.

So, in 1872, Thomas persuaded her father to allow her to attend a newly opened school for girls in New York.  While studying there her father asked her to investigate Cornell University for him.  He later decided that it had been a mistake, because as soon as she saw it, she was determined to attend. [Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame]

She received her bachelor’s from Cornell in 1877. She did graduate work at both Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at the University of Leipzig, but withdrew from both — Hopkins did not permit her to attend classes and Leipzig did not grant degrees to women. In the end she earned her PhD. in linguistics from the University of Zürich. She graduated summa cum laude.  She stayed in Europe for a while, living in Paris, before returning to the US.

M. Carey Thomas. [Image courtesy Explore PA]

M. Carey Thomas. [Image courtesy Explore PA]

While studying in Europe she heard about a “proposed women’s college at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and applied for presidency. [Ibid] Although she didn’t get the presidency of the college — that went to a man — in 1884 she became the Dean of Bryn Mawr and the chair of the English department.  She was instrumental in forming the college’s curriculum.

She desired to build it into an institution that would encourage women to follow careers without having to face the difficulties with which she had struggled. Convinced that women deserved exactly the same education as men and needed even higher standards than men to succeed, she molded a curriculum that offered more advanced work than that given in many men’s colleges and upheld the highest academic standards. []

She also continued to work in Baltimore to  help form a “school where girls could obtain an education which would prepare them to attend a good college.” [Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame] In 1885 that school, The Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore, opened its doors.

She was also instrumental getting Johns Hopkins Medical School to change their admission policy on Women.

With the help of four of her friends, a total of $500,000 was raised to aid the Medical School in its financial struggle.  The funds raised were used as a leverage to get the University to accept women.  Thus, thanks largely to the efforts of these five women, women were to be admitted on precisely the same basis as men. [Ibid]

She was active in the suffragette movement and in 1908 became the first president of the National College Women’s Equal Suffrage League. She became the first woman trustee at Cornell.  And she helped organized the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers.


[Image courtesy:]

In 1894 Thomas became president of Bryn Mawr College. It was a post she held until she retired at age 65 in 1922.

Carey Thomas died in Philadelphia on Dec 2, 1935.

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