In Her Own Right

Lewis-Fussell Family Papers

Date created 1698-01-01 – 1978-01-01
Abstract The collection contains correspondence, journals, other writings, account books, albums, photographs, and miscellaneous notes of members of the Lewis and Fussell families of Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania. Includes the papers and drawings of Graceanna Lewis, prominent Quaker natural scientist and social reformer. Educated at the Kimberton Boarding School, she also taught at a number of female seminaries, including a boarding school managed by her uncle, Bartholomew Fussell, and the Foster School for Girls at Clifton Springs, N.Y. Of particular interest is her correspondence with a cousin concerning phrenology and a school for black children in which he was teaching, and her manuscript memoirs of the Underground Railroad.
Description These papers offer windows into abolitionism, Quakers and militarism, and female friendships and professionalism. Graceanna Lewis belonged to a family of reformers and was in a circle that involved many others, including Cyrus and Charles Burleigh and William Still. Her correspondence addresses issues including the Abby Kelley controversy over female participation in antislavery work and the Underground Railroad. The latter is also addressed in an unpublished memoir Lewis wrote in 1912. She discussed her parents' opposition to slavery, the fugitives who hid on their property, and the contributions of other local abolitionists. Additionally, these papers shed light on the difficulties the Civil War posed to Quakers who were both antislavery and antiwar. Lewis's writings also show how her work was sometimes in concert with, and sometimes at odds with, her politics. As a teacher, she did not hesitate to talk to her students about slavery, even if their parents would object. However, she was also a scientist, which led her to embrace phrenology and scientific racism. A final thread that runs through this collection is that of female friendships, expressed in Lewis's lifelong friendship with Hannah Mifflin.
Research interest As noted, these papers engage with many interesting issues, but they are probably more valuable to supplement a study of the abolitionist community than they are as windows into Lewis's own life and activism. Additionally, while Lewis certainly exercised agency through her pursuit of an unconventional career, she did not really focus on the gendered aspects of slavery or on women's rights per se.
Size 6 lf
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Contributing institution Friends Historical Library: Swarthmore College
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