Antislavery crusader and dauntless champion of women’s rights Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815–84) was a famed newspaper editor and popular speaker known for her spirited audacity and stinging denunciations. In this collection of letters written for the St. Cloud Democrat, Swisshelm provides vivid glimpses into life in mid-nineteenth century Minnesota through rich descriptions of places, characterizations of people, accounts of frontier travel, thoughts on pioneer journalism, reflections of public opinion, and just plain gossip.
After the devastation of the Dakota War of 1862, Swisshelm set out on a national lecture tour. On the road, she found wartime conditions so stirring, and the need for nurses so pressing, that she moved to Washington, D.C., for several years, working first in a military hospital and later at the war department. Her accounts of these days contain poignant scenes from her hospital service and inimitably spirited descriptions of life in the nation’s capital. The letter entitled “Women Workers”—in which she savages certain fellow employees in government service—is but one of many fascinating entries.
Facsimile pages of Swisshelm’s newspaper articles, a handy index, and a biographical sketch of Swisshelm provide background and context to this pioneering woman’s letters. Crusader and Feminist offers readers an intimate window into the world of a remarkable editor, lecturer, war nurse, and feminist.