Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an American abolitionist, suffragist, poet, temperance activist, teacher, public speaker, and writer. Beginning in 1845, she was one of the first African American women to be published in the United States.

Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, Harper had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20. At 67, she published her widely praised novel ''Iola Leroy'' (1892), placing her among the first Black women to publish a novel.

As a young woman in 1850, Harper taught domestic science at Union Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, a school affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). In 1851, while living with the family of William Still, a clerk at the Pennsylvania Abolition Society who helped refugee slaves make their way along the Underground Railroad, Harper started to write anti-slavery literature. After joining the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1853, Harper began her career as a public speaker and political activist.

Harper also had a successful literary career. Her collection ''Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects'' (1854) was a commercial success, making her the most popular African American poet before Paul Laurence Dunbar. Her short story "Two Offers" was published in the ''Anglo-African'' in 1859, making literary history as the first short story published by a Black woman.

Harper founded, supported, and held high office in several national progressive organizations. In 1886, she became superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women's Christian Temperance Union. In 1896 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president.

Harper died at age 85 on February 22, 1911. Provided by Wikipedia

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by Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins
University of Virginia Library

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by Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins
University of Virginia Library