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Biographies of interesting women
Transcript of Biographies of interesting women
17th and 18th century
Pocahontas marries John Rolfe
Deborah Sampson (1760-1827)
-Deborah was born on December 17, 1760
-she grew up in poverty and one day her father
left the family
-as her mother was of poor health she sent her children away and they lived in different households
-Deborah lived on a farm for ten years, she had to hard physical work which prepared her for her time in the army
-she was even able to attend school, so she
was hired as a teacher when her servitude
"I am indeed willing to acknowledge what I have done, an error and presumption. I will call it an error and presumption because I swerved from the accustomed flowery path of female delicacy, to walk upon the heroic precipice of feminine perdition!"
-Deborah Sampson (on her controversial military service in the American Revolution)
Deborah Sampson was the first known American woman who disguised
herself as a man in order to
join the army and fight
in a battle. She served
17 months during the
Deborah was a woman
ahead of her time who
was convinced that women should
be able to do everything they want.
During her first battle in 1782
Deborah received two musket balls in her thigh and an enormous cut on her forehead.
But she didn't want to go to
the hospital because she
feared that her true identity
would be discovered. After
the doctors had treated her
head wound, she left the
She removed one of the musket balls herself with
a penknife and a sewing needle, the other was
too deep for her to reach. So her leg never
Deborah loved to read and
wanted to discover all the places she read about. She also felt a duty to serve her country.
In 1782 she enlisted the Continental Army as "Robert Shurtliff". She sewed herself some men's clothing and cut off her hair. People didn't recognize her as a woman because she was tall and had strong features.
Deborah had to sleep in a tent with six other man, the food was awful and hardly enough.
Martha Ballard (1734/1735-1812)
-Martha was born in Oxford/Massachusetts
-she was a midwife and healer who kept a diary
for 27 years (from 1785 until she died)
-the diary contains a total of almost 10.000 entries
-it records her work and her private life, including
tragedies and struggles in her own family, local
crimes and scandals and a woman's point of view
on political events
-she wrote in her diary every day, with time the
entries became longer and more detailed
-Martha married and had nine children
...and her diary
Elizabeth Key Grinstead (1630-1665)
One of the themes in the diary:
Scarlet Fever Epidemic
During the summer of 1787 Hallowell/Maine was
afflicted with scarlet fever. Martha found herself busy with delivering babies and tending the sick, her main
duties as a midwife.
The symptoms were sore throat and rash. Death was possible, too.
Another disease attacking the population was puerpural fever, often occurring after childbirth and possibly killing both, mother and child.
Evidence of this epidemic can be found in Martha's diary.
Quotes from a diary entry:
July 30, 1787
"Clear & pleast"
(Martha always started her entries with the weather)
"Calld to See mr Foster; find him mending. Left Lidia better also. Dolly is unwell."
"[...] Daniel is very Sick with the rash."
"mr.Williams has Bled again & is very poorly."
"I Blatht their feet & gave the Some herb Tea."
"I feel much fatagud my Self."
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)
-Anne was born in Northampton/England
-grew up in cultured circumstances
because her father was a steward of the
Earl of Lincoln
-was well-educated (literature, history,
-married at the age of 16
-1630: emigrated to America with her
husband and her parents
Anne Bradstreet was the first female poet
and writer in the North American colonies
to be published.
In 1650 "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up
in America", a volume of poetry, was published
in London. It makes Anne Bradstreet the first
female poet and writer ever published in England
and the New World.
Despite being very ill (due to having had smallpox
as a teenager), Anne had 8 children.
She expressed her fear of giving birth in one of her most famous works:
"Before the Birth of One of Her Children"
..."the first woman of African ancestry to sue for her freedom from slavery and win."
-born as Elizabeth Key in 1630 in Warwick County/Virginia
-mother: black slave, father: Englishman and planter
-Elizabeth was a illegitimate child
(it is likely that her father set up his wife with a considerable
property to live with Elizabeth's mother)
-her father took responsibility for her and arranged her baptism
-at the age of 6 he placed her in the household of a wealthy
planter who became her guardian until she reached the age
-but her new guardian didn't stick to his promise to take
Elizabeth to England with him
-she was a sold to a colonist, he to her to an undeveloped
county (called Northumberland County) with him
-she worked on a plantation there
-around 1650 Elizabeth met William Grinstead, a young
lawyer and indentured slave from England who
worked for the colonist, too
-the had a relationship and a son, but weren't allowed
"The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up
in America" is published
Black slave Elizabeth Key Grinstead
wins her freedom
Abigail Adams (1744-1818)
Abigail Adams - short biography
Abigail 's political opponents
Abigail was so political active -and
sometimes even outspoken-, her
and John's political opponents started
referring to her as "Mrs. President".
They feared that her political influence on her husband would become too big.
The "Remember the Ladies" letter
"I long to hear that you have declared an
independancy-and by the way in the new
Code of Laws which I suppose it will be
necessary for you to make I dessire you would
Remember the Ladies, and be more generous
and favourable to them than your ancestors."
"Remember, all men would be tyrants if they
could. If particular care and attention is not
paid to the ladies, we are determined to
foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves
bond by any laws in which we have no voice
Abigail 's influence on politcs
Although Abigail believed that her major role
in life was being a wife and mother, she also
was a "behind-the scenes stateswoman".
She advised her husband John Adams, second
U.S. president, mainly about women's rights and
Abigail even supported John when he became
vice president in 1789, despite being upset because
of his long absences. She welcomed many visitors
to the their house.
Abigail 's letters to John Adams
Between 1762 and 1801, throughout John's political
career, Abigail and her husband exchanged more
than 1.000 letters, mainly while John was serving
in the Continental Congress and during his time in
Europe. Abigail updated John about the family, their farm and political events, too. She also used
the letters to give him advices.
The probably most famous letter to her husband is the "Remember the Ladies" letter. Abigail urges
John and the other member of the Continental
Congress to "Remember the Ladies" when fighting
for America's independence.
The letter shows Abigail to be a brave
woman, fighting for her rights at a time
when women were expected to live a
private and domestic life.
It is also seen as a private first step in the fight for equality between women and
In 1783 Deborah was promoted and so she
started serving as a waiter to General John
Paterson. This job provided access to better
food, shelter and a better quality of life.
During the summer she came down with malignant fever. When a doctor treated her, he discovered that "Robert" was a woman.
He didn't reveal her secret and took her to his house. His wife and his children took care of Deborah, then she returned to the army.
In September the Treaty of Paris was signed
and war ended.
Deborah was sent to George Washington with
a note by the doctor and her secret was out.
But Washington didn't tell anybody.
Instead, Deborah was discharged from the army
honorably. She received a pension from 1805
until she died.
Later, Deborah married
and had 3 children.
She started giving lectures and speeches on
her experiences during war.
"I burst the tyrant bands,
which held my sex in awe"
(at an 1802 public lecture she gave)
On April 29, 1827 Deborah died of Yellow fever.
Her brave act of enlisting the army was
an inspiration to women worldwide.
Gender is not a barrier when it comes
to serving one's country.
-her master died 5 years later and Elizabeth and her
son John were about to become part of his estate
-Elizabeth claimed she was a free woman and sued
for her freedom
-she won on the argument that her father was a free
Englishman and that she was a baptized Christian
-when William completed had completed his
indenture, they married
-William died early and Elizabeth married again
-among her many descendants there are also
celebrities, for example actor Johnny Depp
"Remember the Ladies"
Abigail's letter to John Adams
Deborah Sampson enlists the army
Martha Ballard begins her diary
on the 1st of January
Pocahontas is an Indian woman who became
famous because of her interactions with the first
settlers at Jamestown.
She was the daughter of Chief Powhatan,
leader of numerous Native American tribes.
There is a well-known legend that says she saved
the life of John Smith, an Indian captive,
before he could be executed in 1607. John Smith is
also mentioned in the Walt Disney movie.
What we actually know about Pocahontas...
-Pocahontas's birth year is only estimated (1595)
-she had several names as a child, e.g. Matoaka
-she is considered to be a princess because her father owned a "kingdom",
he was the leader of numerous tribes
-in 1613 Pocahontas was captured during the First Anglo-Powhatan War:
the English demanded the release of prisoners and stolen weapons and tools
for her freedom
-although her father returned the prisoners, Pocahontas stayed in captivity
-she was taught English and she converted to Christianity
-Pocahontas took the Christian name "Rebecca"
-during her time in captivity Pocahontas also met John Rolfe,
a tobacco farmer
-they were married in 1614 to create a "climate of peace"
between the colonists and Powhatan's tribes,
we don't know about Pocahontas feelings about the marriage
-one year later their son Thomas was born
-June 1616: the Rolfes traveled to England
-Pocahontas was presented to London society as a perfect
example of the success of Jamestown settlement
-in 1617 she died before she could return to America
Pocahontas - The Disney Movie
In the 1995 animated Walt Disney Movie "Pocahontas" there is
a relationship created between Pocahontas and John Smith,
the man that Pocahontas probably saved from execution.
It is known that Captain John Smith actually existed and that
he arrived in Virginia in 1607. He was captured by one of
Pocahontas's brothers while exploring the area around the
settlement where he lived. Early history says that he and
Pocahontas befriended but there is no historical evidence
of a romance between them. Pocahontas often came to the
settlement to play with the boys there or to provide John and the settlers with food.