In Her Own Right

Martha Schofield papers

Date range 1853 – 1944
Creator Schofield, Martha, 1839-1916
Abstract This collection contains biographical information, personal correspondence (1856-1916), and writings (primarily diaries, 1858-1903) by Martha Schofield, a Pennsylvania teacher who taught free blacks in South Carolina and founded the Schofield Normal and Industrial School in Aiken, S.C. Also included are financial and legal papers and School bulletins, annual reports, and some other papers. Among the correspondents are Martha Schofield's extended family and Susan B. Anthony.
Description This collection provides a fascinating look into Schofield's personal life and activism. Her letters and diaries convey a harrowing picture of how the Civil War affected the daily lives of Northerners, as well as the ways in which Schofield contributed to the war effort, including sending food, sewing, and money; working in a hospital; and aiding contraband. Yet, as a Quaker, it was difficult to reconcile her antislavery sentiments with her pacifist beliefs, and her letters describe this struggle as well. In 1865, she was appointed a teacher with the Pennsylvania Relief Association, and from this point on sources document her move South, teaching, and eventually the establishment of her own school. Sources also chart her growing involvement in the suffrage movement, including her views on why women should have the right to vote and her friendship with Susan B. Anthony. The collection does include a few gaps—outgoing letters are less common after 1865, and diaries from 1863-64 and 1872-91 are not included—but each form is so compelling and revealing on its own. Schofield was remarkably candid and reflective, not only about politics but also about her personal life, including her friendship with Sadie Brower—a classic nineteenth-century romantic friendship that included referring to Sadie as her wife and deep depression when Sadie got married—and her attempts to map out unconventional relationships with men. Beyond letters and diaries, Schofield penned many articles on such issues as women's rights and racial equality.
Research interest Beyond charting Schofield's involvement in abolitionism, the war effort, educational initiatives, and suffrage, the collection documents the ways in which nineteenth-century women attempted to create satisfying lives for themselves outside of marriage and motherhood. Of particular interest is the fact that Schofield was so young (early twenties) when she produced much of this writing, making her relatable to students. Despite the presence of some cross-writing, her handwriting is highly readable.
Size 3.75 lf
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Contributing institution Friends Historical Library: Swarthmore College
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