History Makers; Paving the Way for Women These Five Notable Names in American History Made Groundbreaking Social Progress

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ABIGAIL ADAMS

Abigail Adams was an advocate for women having the right to own property and the right to an education. She believed women should not sit idly by condemned as merely mates and companions to their husbands, but play an active role in their guidance and influence, as well as that of their children. Nor should they submit to laws not made in their interest. She is known for a letter she penned to her husband in 1776, while he was still a member of the Continental Congress, encouraging him to "Remember the Ladies." "In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would Remember the Ladies," she wrote, "and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors." This was the first plea for American women's equality.

SOJOURNER TRUTH

Born into slavery, Isabella Baumfree was an abolitionist and women's rights activist. Upon obtaining her freedom, she began to fight to get back her son (one of 13 of her children) who was sold illegally. She successfully won his freedom and became the first black woman to win a court case against a white man. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became a powerful anti-slavery speaker when she set off across the nation preaching about abolition. She is best remembered by her famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman?"

CATHERINE FERGUSON

Catherine Ferguson, born a slave, was 8 years old when her mother was sold. This permanent separation more than likely contributed to her desire to help neglected children, both black and white. When she was 16 years old, a lady friend purchased Catherine's freedom for $200. In 1814, she founded the first Sunday School in New York City. Catherine's Sunday School, which was unusual because it was integrated from the beginning, served poor and needy children for more than 40 years. …