In May the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted unanimously to add 1006 Bainbridge St. to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The property is significant for its association with Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who lived there from 1871 through 1911.
Harper, an African American, achieved acclaim as a reformer and a literary figure. Her activities in the anti-slavery, women’s rights, temperance, and post-Civil War civil rights movements spanned many decades and many states. Her poetry and essays told of the Black female experience and promoted equality for Blacks in America.
Did you know…?
- Harper wrote the first short story published by an African American woman in the United States. The Two Offers, published in 1859, was about women’s roles in society.
- She also wrote one of the first novels published by an African American woman. 1892’s Iola Leroy, or, Shadows Uplifted told of the life of a young mixed-race woman during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
- Harper was a trailblazing educator. She was the first woman instructor at Union Seminary in Ohio, a school for free Blacks.
- She was active in the Underground Railroad. Harper stayed with her friend and fellow abolitionist William Still. Still’s home at 625 S. Delhi St., which is also on the Register, was an Underground Railroad way station. When traveling she would mail monetary donations to him to assist with his effort.
- She traveled throughout the United States spreading her message. A sought-after speaker, Harper advocated for equal rights, job opportunities, and education for Black Americans.
You can learn more about Frances Harper and her connection to Philadelphia in the nomination to designate her former home. The Historical Commission staff prepared the nomination.
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