As part of Women’s History Month, we remember educator and abolitionist Lucy Ann Stanton, the first black American woman to receive a four-year college degree.
Born in Cleveland on Oct. 16, 1831, she entered Oberlin College in the mid-1840s. She became president of the Oberlin Ladies Literary Society and in 1850 delivered the graduation address entitled “A Plea For The Oppressed,” an anti-slavery speech.
After graduation, Stanton, who received a literary degree, taught in a black school in Columbus, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
In 1852 she married William Howard Day, who had also graduated from Oberlin, and they lived in Cleveland. In 1854 Stanton wrote a short story on slavery for her husband’s newspaper, the Aliened American, Cleveland’s first black newspaper. It was the first time a black woman had published a fictional story, according to the encyclopedia.
In 1856 the Days moved to Buxton, Canada, to teach fugitive slaves fleeing north. Three years later, William Day left his wife and daughter and moved to England. Stanton returned to Cleveland and worked as a seamstress.
Committed to aiding freedmen, Stanton left Cleveland in 1866 to teach in Georgia and Mississippi. She divorced Day in 1872 and in 1878 married Levi Sessions. They moved to Tennessee. In the 1880s and 1890s she was an officer in the Women’s Relief Corps, a grand matron of the Order of Eastern Star, and president of a local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She died on Feb. 18, 1910, in Los Angeles.