Dr. Margaret Washington, professor of History and American Studies at Cornell University, unveiled the stories of four unsung women activists during a Juneteenth Celebrations at the North Star Underground Railroad Museum on Sunday, June 17. She explained that women were among the most prominent leaders of the abolitionist movement before the Civil War, and also led the fight for the 13th Amendment, and a permanent end to slavery, after the War. In addition they fought for more humane treatment and economic opportunity for newly freed slaves.
The four "forgotten women" Dr. Washington focused on—Josephine Griffing, Eliza Leggett, Francis Ellen Watkins, and Laura Haviland—broke away from the sheltered lives prescribed for them by 19th Century society, and endured vicious criticism, physical abuse, jailing and ostracism. Yet they persisted, and met countless challenges.
At one point, they were advised to try and get one million people to sign a petition in support of what became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. "They didn't get a million signatures," Dr. Washington said, "they got five million."
View photos taken during the presentation.