Lydia Pinkham


Businesswoman and Feminist in the Civil War Era

Lydia Pinkham concocted a patent medicine tonic - Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound - to treat menstrual and menopausal symptoms. She began selling her home-brewed herbal remedy to make ends meet after her wealthy husband went bankrupt, and developed a patent medicine empire.

In an age when women were second-class citizens, Lydia Pinkham [Read More ...]

Annie Burton


Former Slave Who Became a Businesswoman

Annie Louise Burton was born a slave in Clayton, Alabama in 1858. She was the daughter of a woman named Nancy, the cook of Mr. and Mrs. William Farrin whose plantation was near Clayton. Annie's father, a white man born in Liverpool, England, owned a plantation that was a long walk from the Farrin [Read More ...]

Margaret Haughery


Women in Business in the Civil War Era

Margaret Haughery was a business entrepreneur and philanthropist who became known as the Mother of the Orphans. She devoted her life to the care and feeding of the poor and hungry, and to funding and building orphanages throughout the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Born into poverty and orphaned at a young [Read More ...]

Lydia Hamilton Smith


Abolitionist and African American Businesswoman

S. Epatha Merkerson plays Lydia Hamilton Smith in the 2012 film Lincoln, alongside Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. The movie stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Merkerson owes much of her fame to her role as Lt. Anita Van Buren on the original Law and Order television [Read More ...]

Martha Coston


Inventor of Night Signal Flares for the U.S. Navy

Martha Hunt Coston was born in 1826 in Baltimore, and moved to Philadelphia with her widowed mother, brothers, and sisters in the 1830s. At the age of 16, Martha eloped with Benjamin Franklin Coston, a promising young inventor.

The young couple were living a charmed life. Benjamin was appointed Master in [Read More ...]