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Anna T.S./Michal Scott: Frances Watkins Harper – A Woman’s Reach Must Exceed Her Grasp (Contest)
Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Jennifer Beyer!

Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach must exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” Frances Watkins Harper’s list of accomplishments, author, poet, teacher, suffragist, reformer, and abolitionist, shows she believed that about women, too.

Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1825, Frances’ parents died when she was three. She was raised by her aunt and minister abolitionist uncle, Henrietta and William J. Watkins who had been teaching free children to read and write since 1820. No wonder activism came naturally to Frances. By the age of twenty-one, she published Forest Leaves, her first book of poetry. She produced no less than 80 poems and four novels, all of which touched on the issues of oppression she would fight against for the rest of her life.

At age twenty-six, she taught domestic science at Union Seminary in Ohio for a year then moved to Pennsylvania where she taught as well. A Maryland law threatened enslavement to any free African American who returned to the state from the North, so she remained in Pennsylvania with Mary Still and her husband William, the father of the Underground Railroad. While with them, Frances began writing poetry for anti-slavery newspapers. In 1858, she wrote one of her most celebrated poems, “Bury Me In A Free Land.” That same year, she refused to give up her seat and move to the colored section of a Philadelphia trolley.

She spoke for eight years for anti-slavery societies in the US and Canada on the issues she wrote about: racism, women’s rights, and classism. In 1859, she wrote “The Two Offers,” the first short story ever published by an African American woman and the essay “Our Greatest Want” which compared the slavery of African Americans with that of the Hebrews of the Old Testament.

In 1860, she married Fenton Harper and had one daughter, Mary, but unfortunately, became widowed four years later.

At the 1866 National Woman’s Right’s Convention, she spoke urging support for suffrage for African American women who, being Black and female, needed the vote, too. Attendees organized the American Equal Rights Organization, but a split between the members occurred over support of the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the vote before White women. Siding with those championing the amendment, Frances helped form the American Woman Suffrage Association instead.

She spent the rest of her days working for social reform to better the lives of African Americans. She served as the vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, director of the American Association of Colored Youth, and superintendent of the African American designated sections of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Unions.

The home Frances lived in from 1870 until her death in 1911 is a historic site within the National Park Service.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments your impression of Frances, her accomplishments and/or what you believe women should reach for.

One Breath Away
by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more. Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex. Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…

Excerpt from One Breath Away… 

Arousal—fondly remembered and sorely missed—sizzled between Mary Hamilton’s well-rounded thighs. Moisture coated her nether lips and threatened to stoke the sizzle into a blaze. The sensation surprised her, as did the owner of the gaze that lit the flame.

Eban Thurman stood against an opposite wall of the town’s community hall. Although the room was wide as two barns and filled with revelers, neither the distance nor the presence of the crowd lessened the power of his gaze. He studied her with a curiosity that didn’t grope with disdain, but caressed with approval.

With respect.

This kind of appreciation was never given to women as dark and as large as she. Gratitude heated her face.

Gratitude and embarrassment. Her lavender toilet water couldn’t hide the fragrance of arousal. She shuddered with shame then glanced around. Had anyone else detected the odor? All the merrymakers seemed too caught up in the rhythmic fast fiddling and foot-stomping of Safe Haven’s seventh annual Juneteenth Revel to notice her discomfort.

In 1872 Texas who took note of a black woman who ain’t been asked to wed?

Yet Eban’s perusal said not only did he take note, but he liked what he saw.


20 comments to “Anna T.S./Michal Scott: Frances Watkins Harper – A Woman’s Reach Must Exceed Her Grasp (Contest)”

  1. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 29th, 2023 at 9:12 am · Link

    Thanks as always for letting me share my love of African American women

  2. cindy
    · November 29th, 2023 at 9:47 am · Link

    Give any woman an idea with a glimpse of a plan and if it is a worthwhile venture, she will succeed. Ms Harper is a prime example.

  3. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 29th, 2023 at 12:56 pm · Link

    So true Cindy! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Mary Preston
    · November 29th, 2023 at 3:17 pm · Link

    I believe that women should reach for the stars. An inspiring woman.

  5. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 29th, 2023 at 4:03 pm · Link

    Absolutely, Mary. It’s like she and others look to the stars, see what’s possible and go for it regardless. Thanks for commenting.

  6. BN
    · November 29th, 2023 at 5:46 pm · Link

    very inspirational

  7. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 29th, 2023 at 7:08 pm · Link

    I am continually amazed at how these women triumphed despite adverse conditions. Thanks for commenting bn.

  8. Debra Guyette
    · November 30th, 2023 at 7:34 am · Link

    It is amazing what one woman can do in spite of the obstacles.

  9. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 30th, 2023 at 4:00 pm · Link

    So true, Debra. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Diane Sallans
    · November 30th, 2023 at 8:39 pm · Link

    Frances must have had a strong sense of self-worth and a positive attitude to have accomplished so much despite the difficulties she lived thru – an inspirational story.

  11. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 30th, 2023 at 11:31 pm · Link

    I’m in awe of her focus on helping others in everything she did, from teaching to lecturing to the content of her published works. Thanks for commenting Diane.

  12. Jennifer Beyer
    · December 2nd, 2023 at 7:50 pm · Link

    I would love to visit the park with her home. I love learning these little stories about history!

  13. flchen
    · December 3rd, 2023 at 12:56 am · Link

    Frances Harper sounds like she absolutely defined persistence. I so appreciate how you bring her and other heroines like her to light, Anna–they deserve to be better known!

  14. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · December 3rd, 2023 at 10:49 am · Link

    So would I Jennifer. Thanks for commenting.

  15. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · December 3rd, 2023 at 10:50 am · Link

    I’m so glad you’re enjoying them, flchen. There’s so much more I’ve learned about them than I’m able to share in these posts I’m thinking of starting a weekly writing project where I can share more. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Lisa Kendall
    · December 3rd, 2023 at 12:11 pm · Link

    As a girl grandma I believe woman can be a true force to be reckoned with no matter their season in life.

  17. Margaret
    · December 3rd, 2023 at 2:57 pm · Link

    Thank you for sharing this story. I wish our history books would be filled with these kind of stories. There are wonderful people who helped make this country, we should celebrate them all.

  18. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · December 8th, 2023 at 10:36 am · Link

    Amen to that Lisa. Thanks for commenting.

  19. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · December 8th, 2023 at 10:37 am · Link

    I’m with you Margaret. There are so many women and men we should have learned about in elementary school but didn’t. Thanks for commenting.

  20. Delilah
    · December 9th, 2023 at 12:28 pm · Link

    Anna! Thanks so much for another great post!

    The winner of the GC is…Jennifer Beyer!

Comments are closed.