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Wed, 11.19.1845

Frances Anne Rollin Whipper, Teacher, and Doctor born

Frances Anne Rollin Whipper

*On this date in 1845, Frances Anne Rollin Whipper was born.  She was a Black activist, teacher, doctor, and author.

Frances Rollin was born in 1845 in Charleston, South Carolina, into a free family of color who came from Santo Domingo (now known as the Dominican Republic). Her father was a well-to-do lumber merchant. She lived her early life as a part of the free Black society in Charleston and was well-educated.  During the American Civil War and fortunate to be a free Black woman, Whipper utilized her time multi-tasking and educating herself. She attended The Quaker School for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, which became Cheyney University. There she began her career as a writer/author and an activist for civil rights and feminism. 

After the war and losing her father’s business, her life changed significantly.  In 1865, she was illegally refused first-class passage on a ferry to Beaufort. She filed a lawsuit against the captain of the ferry and won. Rollin was aided in her case by Major Martin Delany. He eventually asked Rollin to write his biography. In 1868, she published the Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany with the help of a Boston publishing company. She wrote the book under her pen name Frank A. Rollin. This became the first full-length biography written by a Black person.  At the age of 20, Whipper returned to her hometown of Charleston and began working as a teacher for the Freedmen's Bureau during the Reconstruction Era of the United States.

Three years later, she was employed and began working for a Pennsylvania-born attorney, William J. Whipper, who had recently been elected to the South Carolina legislature. Despite family opposition, Rollin and Whipper married after a few months of meeting.   The dream of an equal opportunity south became irrelevant, and the Ku Klux Klan was now on the move and rapidly spreading.  After 12 years, the Whippers' marriage began to decline due to marital and political issues.  Frances decided to separate from her husband and took their three children with her.  Along with her sisters Katherine and Charlotte, they arranged a women's rights convention held in 1870 in Columbia, South Carolina. They established the South Carolina Branch of the American Woman Suffrage Association.  

During the 1880s, Rollin separated from her husband and took her children to Washington, DC. In Washington, she attended Howard University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first Black women physicians in the United States.  She helped put her children through college and lived to see them accomplish their career goals. In 1892 she contracted an illness while campaigning for Republican Presidential Candidate James G. Blaine.  Frances Anne Rollin died in Beaufort, South Carolina, on October 17, 1901. 

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