Primary Source Set: Martha Schofield: Abolitionist & Education Pioneer

Created by Nick Millheim, Master's Degree candidate in Social Studies Education, Arcadia University


The end of the Civil War in 1865 launched the Reconstruction period of rebuilding in the South. Martha Schofield was a Pennsylvania Quaker and educator who supported African American education in the South in the time during and after Reconstruction.

Martha Schofield was born in 1839 in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and raised in a Quaker family who assisted fugitive slaves journeying to the North prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Schofield taught at schools in the North before volunteering with the Freedmen's Bureau's work in South Carolina. In 1870, Schofield established the Schofield Normal and Industrial School in Aiken, SC to provide education for formerly enslaved people. Schofield helped to support the school financially with her own funds and by seeking funds within the Quaker community, writing to people associated with the women’s suffrage movement and to the South Carolina state government regarding education for African Americans.

This primary source set focuses on the life of the abolitionist Martha Schofield and her role in growing African American education in the South in the time during and after Reconstruction, and includes a brief look at Schofield’s attitudes towards the fight for women’s suffrage.

Educational purpose

This primary source set explores the upbringing and civic journey of Martha Schofield and her work at the Schofield Normal and Industrial School, reflecting personal insights on the formation of schools for formerly enslaved African Americans, views on education, and the fight for women’s right to vote. Use of the set would be most effective when conducted after a unit on Reconstruction has been started or completed, providing context on the social landscape of the United States and supporting analysis and interpretation of the primary sources.

Grade levels

This set is best suited for grades 9-12.

State Standards

8.1.12.A. Evaluate patterns of continuity and rates of change over time, applying context of events.

8.1.12.B. Evaluate the interpretation of historical events and sources, considering the use of fact versus opinion, multiple perspectives, and cause and effect relationships.

8.2.9.B. Compare the impact of historical documents, artifacts, and places in Pennsylvania which are critical to U.S. history.

8.2.U.B. Evaluate the importance of various historical documents, artifacts, and places in Pennsylvania which are critical to U.S. history.

8.2.12.B. Evaluate the impact of historical documents, artifacts, and places in Pennsylvania which are critical to U.S. history and the world.

Source Set

1. Martha Schofield centennial anniversary celebration

Mary Schofield Ash Jenkins was the niece of Martha Schofield. She writes about the life and legacy of Martha Schofield, with a focus on her work to educate African Americans.


“Martha Schofield was brave, courageous and fearless ... Her interests were broad, and besides her chief one, negro education, she was an ardent advocate of peace, and the causes of temperance and woman suffrage. Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, and many other reformers, were among her personal friends. She was a pioneer in industrial education, stressing chiefly in her school such handcrafts as would be useful at home, as well as for earning a living.” (p. 2)

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2. The Story of a Bucks County Maiden - Martha Schofield

Brief biographical sketch of Martha Schofield, with an emphasis on her work as an educator of African Americans. Written around the 100th anniversary of Schofield's birth.


“...Martha's mother and father were members of this very meeting (Newtown) Wakefield Monthly Meeting ... When Martha was ten years old one of the most critical questions in the history of the United States was stirring in the hearts of the people. Even a little child could feel the volcanic friction which the slavery question was causing. And Martha's mother and father were very frank and fearless. Slavery of a human being-black or white- was wrong and they intended to do all in their power to put an end to it. They began by using their farmhouse as a station in the underground railway.” (p.1) View item information

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3. Martha Schofield eulogy in the Schofield School Bulletin, 1916

The Schofield School Bulletin was a monthly periodical published by the teachers and students of the Schofield Normal and Industrial School. This issue focuses on Martha Schofield, the founder of the school, who died on 1916-02-01. Includes eulogies by Schofield's friends and former students.


“The school has sent out many young men and women who have gone back among their own people as teachers and builders ... The graduates of the Schofield School are found among the successful teachers, ministers, physicians and artisans of the colored race of the South, and the school is today teaching some of the grand-children of students of the earlier years. Martha Schofield's Motto for the school was ''Thorough," the equivalent of our more modern word ''Efficiency," and in this matter of efficiency as teacher and leader she stood at the very top...” (p. 2)

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4. Schofield School Conference photograph

Large group of people sitting outside with flags and banners. Back of photo says "Schofield School Conference." Dated approximately 1917.

5. Schofield School photograph

Photograph of Schofield School students and teachers in front of new building.

6. Martha Schofield portrait

Portrait of Martha Schofield by an unknown photographer. Back of photograph says "Martha Schofield - 1883 - 44 years of age - at the same time as the erection of the new school building."

7. Martha Schofield draft letter to the New York Tribune

Draft of a letter by Martha Schofield recounting the testimony of African American women whose husbands had been murdered in the Ellenton Riot during. the election of 1876 at the end of Reconstruction. Published in the New York Tribune on 2 June 1877, the letter publicly describes the white men’s violence against black men.


“Says he, Massa George before I will do that I will suffer death. I am going to die a Republican man exceptin [sic] God comes & tells me not to vote Republican … Two weeks after, when the armed rifle club had met some of the colored people at Rouse’s Bridge” (p. 2).

8. Martha Schofield's letter to Sadie Brouwer Bartram

Martha Schofield writes to her friend Sadie Brouwer in 1863 about the Confederates drawing closer to Philadelphia. The letter describes local activity and reactions to the war.


“Every days [sic] report brings the contest nearer our homes, we know not how soon our own noble state may be invaded … There is much excitement. Stores close at 3 oclock & hundreds leaving every day, in 24 hours 10,000 men enrolled their names to defend our sacred soil from Rebellious Confederates. … and even now while I write this lovely sabbath morning, I can not raise my eyes to the field opposite our house without seeing 50 men drawn up in line drilling for the emergency, nearly all the men about able, are preparing, even our Senator has his place among the ranks.” (p. 1).

Teaching Guide

Discussion Questions

Classroom Activities

Teacher Note: The first activity works well to introduce students to Martha Schofield and her ideas.

  • (9-12th graders): To be done in the opening of the lesson: Have your students get in pairs or small groups and refer them to The Story of a Bucks County Maiden - Martha Schofield and Martha Schofield Eulogy. After about 15min, come back together as a class and do a whiteboard splash. Teachers: Aim to have your students answer questions like: WHO is Martha Scofield? WHEN and WHERE did she live? Did she live in multiple places? WHAT did she do for a living? Based on the readings.
  • (11 and 12th graders): Prior to reading sources: Martha Schofield established one of the first schools for African Americans in South Carolina in the 19th century. Based on your understanding of the time, what backlash do you think you would receive?
  • (9-12th grade): Have students read Martha Schofield letter draft to Abby Hadassah Smith individually first while they take notes on what they. Then do a Pause, Star and Rank after about 10-15 minutes. Pause, Star, Rank gives you a lot of windows into a student’s thinking process and their personalities too. What do they value from the reading? What resonates with them? What connects for them?
  • (For above activity) Guiding questions for students: Why is Schofield writing to Hadassah Smith? What does Martha’s writing tell you about her stance on the women’s suffrage movement? Do you feel that Scholfield’s attitudes can tell you anything about the attitudes of other women?
  • (Middle and High School): Make a timeline of the events that transpired leading up to the creation of the Schofield School based on the source set documents. Add the photographs in Photo from the “Schofield School Conference”, photograph of the Schofield School and the Portrait of Martha Schofield to the timeline as well.

About this Guide

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

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