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Wed, 12.06.1815

Jane Swisshelm, Abolitionist born

Jane Cannon

Jane Cannon Swisshelm was born in on this date in 1815. She was a white-American educator, publisher, and abolitionist.

She was born in Pittsburgh, PA., when she was eight, her father died. She helped her mother support the family by lace making and, at the age of 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 own anti-slavery newspaper, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visitor.

Swisshelm used the newspaper to advocate women's rights. She was paid $5 a week by Horace Greeley 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 Visitor.  She ran a column of 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."

Her newspaper office was attacked by a pro-slavery mob 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.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

The Anti-Slavery Society


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