Founder of the First Public Kindergarten

Elizabeth Peabody (1804–1894), the oldest of the three Peabody sisters of Salem, was one of the most important women of her time. She was an educator and education reformer who opened the first kindergarten in the United States. Long before most teachers, Peabody embraced the premise that children's play has intrinsic developmental and educational value.

Her sisters were painter Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, wife of author Nathaniel Hawthorne and writer Mary Peabody Mann, wife of …Read More...

Teacher of Emancipated Slaves

When Union forces occupied St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina, plantation owners fled, leaving behind their homes, possessions and 10,000 slaves. Northern women like Laura Towne and Charlotte Forten volunteered to educate the freedmen and prepare them for economic independence.

Image: Laura Towne class among the live oaks
St. Helena Island, South Carolina

The Port Royal Experiment, begun in 1862, was the first large-scale government effort to help the newly freed slaves, …Read More...

Women in Education: Founder of Clemson University

Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson (1817-1875) was the daughter of the prominent U.S. Senator from South Carolina, John C. Calhoun. She was very well educated and worked with her father in Washington, DC, where she met and later married Thomas Green Clemson. The land Anna Maria inherited after her mother's death included Calhoun's Fort Hill mansion, which is now at the center of Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.

Early Years
Anna Maria …

Teacher of Former Slaves in the South

Teaching in the South during the Reconstruction era (1865-1877) took great courage. The women who traveled there to teach often feared for their lives but were determined to empower the freed slaves through literacy.

Image: The Misses Cooke's school room, Freedman's Bureau, Richmond, Va. In Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1866 Nov. 17, Library of Congress

Edmonia Highgate, the daughter of freed slaves, was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1844. She graduated from …Read More...

Civil War Nurse and Educator

Eliza Emily Chappell Porter was the first public school teacher at Fort Dearborn in Chicago. She established normal schools to train high school graduates to be teachers. As a member of the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, she established hospitals for wounded soldiers and distributed supplies. The Porter home in Green Bay, Wisconsin was the last stop on the Underground Railroad before slaves crossed Lake Michigan into the safety of Canada.

Early Years

African American Abolitionist and Teacher

Sarah Mapps Douglass was born in Philadelphia on September 9, 1806, the daughter of renowned abolitionists Robert Douglass, Sr. and Grace Bustill Douglass. Like many prosperous families, the Douglasses educated Sarah and her brother Robert at home with private tutors.

Image: Sarah Mapps Douglass: Faithful Attender of Quaker Meeting: View from the Back Bench by Margaret Hope Bacon

Sarah's grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, was a member of the Free African Society, the first African American charity …Read More...