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Fri, 05.07.1779

Catherine Ferguson, Minister, and Child Advocate born

Catherine Ferguson

*The birth of Catherine Ferguson in 1779 is celebrated on this date. She was a Black minister and advocate of childcare.

Born a slave, her mother delivered her while traveling from Virginia to New York City.  Katy Williams was her name at birth, and her mother was sold when she was eight years old (she never saw her mother again). Ferguson was “owned” by a man named R. B., an elder in one of the Presbyterian Churches of New York City.  When she was sixteen, a woman purchased her freedom for $200.  Ferguson was married at eighteen and had two children that died in infancy.

Although she never learned to read, Ferguson gathered the poor and neglected children of the neighborhood, white and Black.  This was for religious instruction every Sunday at her home on Warren Street in New York.  A minister who heard of her work convinced her to move her work to the basement of his new church on Murray Street.  Ferguson's Sunday school was the first to be established in New York. Twice a week, she also held prayer meetings for the children and adults, an endeavor she continued for over 40 years in every community where she lived.

During her life, she raised around 48 children; twenty of them white, some from the alms-house and others from their parents or the streets.  She raised them or kept them until she found suitable homes for them.

Catherine Ferguson, a biographer, wrote: "The example of such a life ought not to be lost…to perpetuate the memory of Katy Ferguson and her deeds for the benefit of posterity. She was a philanthropist of the truest stamp." Catherine Ferguson died on July 11, 1854.

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