Feb 242010

Another great gal goes to jail.  Her crime?  Educating black girls.

Prudence Crandall 1803-1890

Prudence Crandall  1803-1890

A lucky educated Quaker teacher who wanted to share the gift of schooling, dear Prudence opened a private school for girls; The Canterbury Female Boarding School in 1831, in Connecticut. It was a gutsy move.  Historically, education was denied to females, as they were considered intellectually inferior with tiny brains (and an oversized pelvis – there were actual drawings by medical doctors!) and belonged in their “domestic sphere”.  The school had a great reputation and enjoyed success – until dear Prudence admitted twenty-year old Sarah Harris, an African American girl who wanted to become a teacher.  Well!  The town of Canterbury went ballistic, with many white parents withdrawing their daughters and basically closed the school down.  Undaunted dear Prudence re-opened but this time just for “young ladies and little misses of color”.  She had the support of many nationally prominent abolitionists, including famed William Lloyd Garrison and the entire Anti-Slavery Society, but that did not stop the citizens of Connecticut from showering the school with mud, eggs and stones, and ultimately passing “The Black Law” prohibiting black students from attending school in their fair state.  Poor Prudence was attacked by a mob, arrested twice and even had her home partially destroyed.  Who could blame her for leaving town?  She moved with her hubby to Illinois where she continued advocating for women’s rights. The state of Connecticut tried to make it up to her by sending her $400 a year until her death in 1890. Today you can visit the Prudence Crandall Museum, a National Historic Landmark, observe Prudence Crandall Day and in 1995 she was declared Connecticut’s State Heroine.