1006 Bainbridge St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Eden Cemetery, 1434 Springfield Rd, Darby, PA 19023
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an African-American abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer. The topics she wrote and spoke about include: "enslavement and abolitionism, human rights and dignity, women's rights and equality, racial and social justice, lynching and mob violence, voting rights, moral character, racial self-help and uplift, and multiracial cooperation for common good." She was active in social reform and was a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which advocated the federal government taking a role in progressive reform. She is considered "the mother of African-American journalism." She is listed in Lesbian Lists by Dell Richards (published by Alyson Books in 1989) as an “early Black Lesbian and Bisexual Writer,” although there are no other references to her sexual orientation online.
She was a friend of suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20, making her one of the first African-American published writers. At 67, she wrote her widely praised novel Iola Leroy (1892). In 1850, she became the first woman to teach sewing at the Union Seminary. In 1851, alongside William Still, chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, she helped escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. She began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1853. In 1858, she refused to give up her seat and ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car in Philadelphia, almost a full century before Rosa Parks.
Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) became her biggest commercial success. Her short story "Two Offers" was published in the Anglo-African in 1859, making literary history by being the first short story published by a black woman.
Harper founded, supported and held high office in several national progressive organizations. In 1883 she became superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women's Christian Temperance Union. In 1894 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president.
In 1860, Frances Harper married a widower named Fenton Harper. When he died four years later she was left with their daughter and his three children from a previous marriage.
She helped found the National Association of Colored Women in 1894, when she was 69 years old, and served as its vice president. In her life, so many of her articles were published that she has been called “the mother of African-American journalism.”
Harper died of heart failure on February 22, 1911, at the age of 86, nine years before women gained the right to vote. Her funeral service was held at the Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. She was buried in Eden Cemetery, next to her daughter, Mary, who had died two years before.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE