Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States

By Linda Eisenmann | Go to book overview

E

Early, Sarah Jane Woodson. African American educator, temperance leader, community organizer, and advocate of racial self-help, Sarah Jane Woodson Early (1825–1907) was among the first African American women to complete a college degree and the first to teach at the college level. She was the daughter of Thomas and Jemimma (Riddle) Woodson and reputedly the granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson. Her father was an articulate proponent of black separatism and self-help in early nineteenth-century Ohio, and an activist in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. He helped found the all-black community of Berlin Crossroads, Ohio in 1830, where Sarah grew up in relative prosperity, surrounded by self-sufficient black farmers.

After completing preparatory study at a manual labor academy, in 1852 Early enrolled in Oberlin College,* one of only two colleges open to both women and African Americans in the 1850s. Like many college students of her era, she financed her schooling in part by teaching* during vacations. She completed Oberlin's Literary Degree in 1856, at age thirty, and continued teaching and serving as principal in Ohio's black communities. Her educational attainments were far in advance of most teachers, white or black, in midcentury. Her dedication and success as an educator brought an invitation in 1866 to join the faculty of Wilberforce University,* Xenia, Ohio, an AME institution.

Her career as the first African American woman faculty member was brief, however. After one year at Wilberforce, she accepted an offer from a Philadelphia Quaker* group to become principal of a school of more than 300 African American students in Hillsboro, North Carolina. She remained two or three years, meanwhile meeting Jordon Winston Early, an AME minister, and marrying him in 1868. They moved to Tennessee where Sarah continued to teach and hold principalships in Memphis, Nashville, Edgefield, and Columbia until her retirement in 1887.

Early taught and administered black schools in the North and the South for

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Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • A 1
  • B 29
  • C 65
  • D 111
  • E 136
  • F 146
  • G 163
  • H 188
  • I 217
  • J 225
  • K 229
  • L 232
  • M 256
  • N 287
  • O 312
  • P 317
  • Q 331
  • R 336
  • S 349
  • T 408
  • U 443
  • V 446
  • W 456
  • Y 494
  • Appendix: Timeline of Women's Educational History in the United States 503
  • Selected Bibliography 507
  • Index 511
  • About the Editor and Contributors 525
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