Author Archives: Penny Colman

Harriet Tubman: An American Hero

What do an asteroid, a section of a highway, a college dormitory, many schools, museums and a World War II Liberty Ship have in common? How about statues in Boston, Massachusetts, Ypsilanti, Michigan, and New York City, or National Historical … Continue reading

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Dorothea Dix: Crusader for Humane Treatment

Until 7th grade, I lived on the grounds of a state mental hospital, where my father was a psychiatrist.  So, no wonder my first biography was “Breaking the Chains: The Crusade of Dorothea Lynde Dix.” Her crusade began today–March 28, … Continue reading

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Sarah Vaughan: Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, also known as “Sassy” and “The Divine One” who was born on March 27, 1924 in Newark, NJ.  This street sign is in front of NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center) in Newark.  … Continue reading

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Deborah Sampson

Very slowly but surely, 19th century women claimed their right to speak/perform in public.  One of the earliest was Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man and served as a soldier in the American Revolution. She fought … Continue reading

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A Three-Part Story: Julia de Burgos

The story behind a street sign in New York City is inspiring and sad and heartening. Located at the corner of East 106th Street and Fifth Avenue, the street sign reads–“JULIA DE BURGOS Boulevard.” Curious about the sign and Julia … Continue reading

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Spring

My mother’s waiting-for-spring ritual was to start looking for the first snowdrop, a tiny white flower. She’d start looking as early as in February. I’ve continued her tradition . . . yesterday I found this one under our back porch, … Continue reading

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Outspoken Advocate: Helen Hunt Jackson

A popular poet, fiction writer, and essayist, Helen Hunt Jackson was a prominent and indomitably outspoken advocate for the rights of Native American people. She produced a barrage of words–letters, speeches, articles, essays, and two important books: “A Century of … Continue reading

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Polly Bemis

Polly Bemis (1853-1933) started life in China, where she was probably named Lalu Nathoy. As a child her feet were bound, (small feet were considered a sign of wealth, of not having to work). After her destitute father sold her … Continue reading

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Selma, Alabama: Shey Webb

Sheyann Webb was named for her great-great-grandmother, who had been a slave. To pronounce her name right, Shey said, “You drop the ‘e’ so it sounds like shy.”  Fifty years ago today, March 7, 1965, a day that would become … Continue reading

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Frances Perkins

Yesterday–March 4th–in 1933, Frances Perkins, a sharp-witted, brilliant, compassionate woman, became the Secretary of Labor of the U.S., the first woman cabinet member.  Her condition for accepting the appointment was that President Franklin Roosevelt had to agree to  support her … Continue reading

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