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Jane Cannon Swisshelm was born on this date in 1815. She was a white-American educator, publisher, and abolitionist.
She was born in Pittsburgh, PA., and when she was eight, her father died. She helped her mother support the family by lace-making and, at 14, as a schoolteacher. In 1836, she married James Swisshelm and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. It was here that she became involved in the campaign against slavery and became a member of the Underground Railroad. In 1848, Swisshelm established her anti-slavery newspaper, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter.
Swisshelm used the newspaper to advocate women's rights. Horace Greeley paid her $5 a week for contributing a weekly article for the New York Tribune. On April 17, 1850, Swisshelm became the first woman to sit in the Senate press gallery.
She moved to Minnesota, where she established the St. Cloud Visiter. She wrote comments and advice in response to readers' letters. In 1853, she published a collection of these columns in book form called "Letters to Country Girls."
A pro-slavery mob attacked her newspaper office, and her printing press was destroyed. Swisshelm purchased another and launched a new antislavery journal, The St. Cloud Democrat. On the outbreak of the American Civil War, Swisshelm sold her newspaper and worked as a nurse for the Union Army in Washington and Fredericksburg until 1864.
After the war, Swisshelm retired to Swissvale, Pennsylvania, where she wrote her autobiography, "Half a Century" (1880). Jane Cannon Swisshelm died in Swissvale on July 22, 1884.
The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.