Anna Dickinson was a gifted orator and an avid supporter of the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. Born 28 October 1842 to Quaker parents, she was raised with not only staunch abolitionist leanings, but also with the idea that women who had something to say should speak out. When Anna was 14, she published a passionate anti-slavery essay in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper “The Liberator,” and by the time she was 18 she was one of the first women to speak publicly to audiences for the cause. In addition to speaking against slavery, she campaigned for Republican candidates for political office and became the first woman to speak before the US House of Representatives in 1864 where she received a standing ovation.
Anna continued her speaking career after the Civil War speaking primarily on women’s rights and the rights of newly freed slaves. She had a complicated relationship with the women’s rights advocates of the day. She supported the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution without the inclusion of women, believing that inclusion of women would cause it to fail and deny African American men the right to vote.
As her speaking career waned, she published two books, a novel and a book about her experiences on the lecture circuit, before beginning a career as an actress and playwright. In 1891, her sister had her incarcerated in the Danville State Hospital for the insane. After winning her freedom, Anna won a legal battle against the people and newspapers which claimed she was insane. She spent the last 40 years of her life in obscurity and died on 22 October 1932, just a few days shy of her 90th birthday.
Find out what else happened on October 28 in Women’s History.