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Jane Grey Swisshelm

Posted by: | September 24, 2012 | No Comment |

Born over 100 years before women even received the right to vote, Jane Grey Swisshelm was an influential figure in the 19th century. She worked as an anti-slavery advocate and was a proud supporter of women’s equality. Swisshelm fought for women’s right to own property, leading to the proposal of the Pennsylvania Married Woman’s Property Law. Although this law did not pass, Swisshelm soon became successful as the first woman correspondent for the New York Tribune.

After returning to Pittsburgh from Louisville, Ky., Swisshelm began to write about the horrors of slavery that she witnessed while living so close to it. She began to submit stories to Pittsburgh newspapers as “Jennie Dean.” She started her own newspaper, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visitor, in 1848.

On April 22, 1850, Swisshelm became the first woman to cover a story in the press gallery in Washington, D.C.

Photo Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Swisshelm left her husband and moved to Minnesota in 1857. She soon became editor of the St. Cloud Visiter.  Her work was so outspoken and controversial that in 1858, a group of angry citizens destroyed her printing press and threw the type into the river. After this, she established the St. Cloud Democrat, continuing to voice her feminist and anti-slavery sentiment.

Although Swisshelm used journalism to fight for women’s rights, she was supportive of the extermination of the Dakota Indians after a group of them attacked white settlers in 1862.

Swisshelm died in 1887, three years before the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law allowing women to own property.

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