For Women’s History Month, we’re recommending five books that highlight historic powerhouse Pennsylvania women. Each one promotes peace, equality, and justice in their own unique way. You don’t want to miss out on learning how these feminists radically changed our country.
Lucretia Coffin Mott
Women’s rights activist, abolitionist, and social reformer
According to University of Pennsylvania Press, Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America by Carol Faulkner “reintroduces readers to an amazing woman whose work and ideas inspired the transformation of American society.” In this book, you’ll learn about Mott’s critical roles in Quakerism, the women’s rights movement, and the antislavery movement including her collaboration with the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
Fanny Jackson Coppin
Educator and religious activist
Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in Washington, D.C. At 12 years old, her aunt bought her freedom, and she used every penny she earned from then on to learn and help others. Jackson Coppin is best known for transforming the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University in Delaware County) in the late 1800s. Eventually, she became lead principal and the first black woman to hold a position at that level in an educational institution. In A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories by Bettye Collier-Thomas, learn more about Jackson Coppin and read her famous Christmas Eve Story, which she wrote to highlight poverty experienced by many black children living in Philadelphia.
Mary Cassatt’s family moved to Philadelphia when she was six years old. As a teen, Cassatt studied painting at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) despite objections from her parents who were concerned she might be exposed to “feminist ideas” and “bohemian behavior of some male students.” Learn from a child’s perspective how Cassatt’s determination and passion helped her make a career out of painting in Mary Cassatt: Family Pictures by Jane O’Connor.
Biologist and conservationist
Born in Springdale, PA, Rachel Louise Carson had been interested in nature and her environment for as long as she can remember. After graduation from the Pennsylvania College for Women, she went on to write numerous books about nature and science, including Silent Spring which many say launched the environmental movement we see today. Learn more about Carson’s work, and the challenges she faced, in Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge, edited by Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore.
Although you won’t find many books solely dedicated to Laura Sims, consider this article courtesy of the Laura Sims Skate House a short story. Learn how one woman’s relentless efforts eventually rallied local officials to secure land and funding for an ice rink in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of Philadelphia. Her letter writing, petitioning, and attendance at community meetings helped many children and their families enjoy safe, quality time together.
Know a book about another historic female leader with ties to Pennsylvania or Philadelphia? Comment below to share.