“It may be well to state here that, having been reared by a kind aunt in Pennsylvania, whose usefulness with the sick was continually sought, I early conceived a liking for, and sought every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others. Later in life I devoted my time, when best I could, to nursing as a business, serving under different doctors for a period of eight years (from 1852 to 1860); most of the time at my adopted home in Charlestown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. From these doctors I received letters commending me to the faculty of the New England Female Medical College, whence, four years afterward, I received the degree of doctress of medicine.”
— Rebecca Davis Lee, the first black woman to receive a medical degree, describes the progression of experiences that led her to study and practice medicine in her publication, "A Book of Medical Discourses," (1883)
“Too oft, we own, the stage with dangerous art
In wanton scenes, has play’d a Syren’s part,
Yet if the Muse, unfaithful to her trust,
Has sometimes stray’d from what was pure and just;
Has she not oft, with awful virtue’s rage.
Struck home at vice, and nobly trod the stage?
Then as you’d treat a favourite fair’s mistake,
Pray spare her foibles for her virtues stake:
And whilst her chastest scenes are made appear,
(For none but such will find admittance here)
The muse’s friends, we hope, will join the cause,
And crown our best endeavours with applause.”
Image by Charles Willson Peale, courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation: In 1771, Charles Willson Peale painted this portrait of actress Nancy Hallam, dressed in her costume as the boy Fidele in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Hallam was a cousin of Lewis Hallam the younger, who in 1752 had brought the first theater company from England to the colonies. Based in New York, Hallam’s company also performed in Philadelphia in the 1750s and 1760s.
— Prologue to first performance of Hallam's Company in Philadelphia, 1754
“The most interesting thing about a postage stamp is the persistence with which it sticks to its job.”
— Napoleon Hill, an American author in the new thought tradition of the previous century, and an early producer of personal-success literature.
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
— George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
“Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.”
— Golda Meir (May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978), an Israeli teacher, kibbutznik, stateswoman and politician and the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.
“Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. Our enemies are numerous and powerful; but we have many friends, determining to be free, and heaven and earth will aid the resolution. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important question, on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”
— Joseph Warren, American doctor who played a leading role in American Patriot organizations in Boston in the early days of the American Revolution, eventually serving as president of the revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress (June 11, 1741 – June 17, 1775)
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?”
Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. In 1835, Poe, then 26, married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. They were married for eleven years until her early death, which may have inspired some of his writing.
“On Tuesday, June 24, Mrs. Andrew Carnegie died at her home in New York City, in her eighty-ninth year. This brought to an end a long and exceptional life of great distinction and fine living. Although since the death of her husband in 1919 Mrs. Carnegie had seldom visited Pittsburgh, she was known to many here for her high purpose, kindliness, and nobility of character.
“Notwithstanding the great wealth and prominence of her husband, she played her individual part in all his philanthropies as a counselor and an enthusiastic co-planner in his hopes for the betterment of the human race. She was self-effacing in her own benefactions, which were many, but fully lived up to what she felt to be the responsibilities placed upon her by her opportunities for service. A true lady in the old fashioned sense of the word, she was most gracious and kindly to all with whom she came in contact and could well be taken as an outstanding example of American womanhood.”
— Obituary in "Carnegie Magazine," of Louise Whitfield Carnegie, June 24, 1946
“As to the presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it.”
— President Martin Van Buren, in office March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841
“A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue.”
— President James Monroe, the fifth US President, 1817-1825; pictured here with First Lady Elizabeth Kortright Monroe.
“Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. The patent laws have secured to the inventor, for a limited time, the exclusive use of his invention; and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things.”
— Abraham Lincoln, from a lecture he delivered on discoveries and inventions before he became president.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
— Physicist and chemist Marie Curie (November 7, 1867 - July 4, 1934), who was awarded the Nobel Prize twice for her work in radioactivity
“Chicago is constantly auditioning for the world, determined that one day, on the streets of Barcelona, in Berlin’s cabarets, in the coffee shops of Istanbul, people will know and love us in our multidimensional glory, dream of us the way they dream of San Francisco and New York.”
— Chicago Tribune Pulitzer Prize Winner Mary Schmich • Image from the cover of The Chicago Negro Business Men and Women, Where they Are Located, by L. W. Washington, Chicago: Flanders Printing Co., 1912.
Old Uncle Sam come there to change, some pancakes and some onions, for ‘lasses cakes, to carry home, to give his wife and young ones.
— 13th stanza of "Yankee Doodle." It is not clear whether this reference is to Uncle Sam as a metaphor for the United States, or to an actual person named Sam. The lyrics as a whole clearly deride the military efforts of the young nation, besieging the British at Boston.
“One of my primary objects is to form the tools so the tools themselves shall fashion the work and give to every part its just proportion.”
— Eli Whitney (December 8, 1765 – January 8, 1825) was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South.
“Bread costs ten cents a pound and is made of Indian corn meal; eggs from fifty cents a dozen; milk fourteen cents a gallon, We eat meat, fish, peas, and wild beans and many kinds of fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple, which is the most excellent of all fruits; watermelon, sweet potatoes; pippins . . . figs, bananas, pecans, cashews.
“In fact, we live on wild beef, deer, swans, geese and wild turkeys, hares, hens, ducks, teals, pheasants, partridges, quails and other fowl and game of different kinds. The rivers are teeming with enormous fish, especially turbot which is an excellent fish, ray, carp, and many other fishes unknown in France. They make much use of chocolate with milk and coffee. A lady of the country has given good provision of it. We drink it every day. During Lent, meat is allowed three times a week, and during the year, meat is allowed on Saturday as in the Island of St. Domingo.
“We accustom ourselves wonderfully well to the wild food of this country. We eat bread which is half rice and half flour. There is here a wild grape larger than the French grape, but it is not in clusters. It is served in a dish like plums. What is eaten most and is most common is rice cooked with milk. The people of Louisiana find very good a food called ‘sagamite,’ which is made of Indian corn crushed in a mortar, then boiled in water, and eaten with butter or cream.”
— A letter from Sister St. Stanislas Hachard (1704-1760), in which she provides lists of ingredients to include in "The 18th Century Creole Pantry," New Orleans, LA.
“No people in the world profess so high a respect for liberty and equality as the people of the United States, and yet no people hold so many slaves, or make such great distinctions between man and man.” Read more here.
— Rev. Peter Williams, Jr., the minister at the largest predominately black Episcopal Church in New York City, who gave an impassioned speech on July 4, 1830, calling for African American allegiance to the U.S. but also demanding that the nation treat its black citizens as the full equal of others.
“The general congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the parliament of Ireland and the inhabitants of that country which have been lately communicated; not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous people their ancient rights and freedom and by their operations to promote the cause of America.
“Desirous of impressing upon the minds of the army, transactions so important in their nature, the general directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for tomorrow the seventeenth, a day held in particular regard by the people of the nation. At the same time that he orders this, he persuades himself that the celebration of the day will not be attended with the least rioting or disorder, the officers to be at their quarters in camp and the troops of the state line to keep within their own encampment.”
— General order from Gen. George Washington Head Quarters Morris Town, March 16, 1780
“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”
— Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century.
“Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled.”
— Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, and public philosopher.
“All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Carry a gun and wear a mask. Now that it’s happened I guess I’m just about the best bank robber they ever had. And I sure am happy.”
— John Dillinger, (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an infamous American gangster in the Depression-era United States, who operated with a group of men known by some as the Terror Gang, which is accused of robbing 24 banks and four police stations.
“If the imagination could describe what our senses enable us to feel from sight and touch, reason itself would recoil in horror, and it is no easy matter to say whether the sight of an entire city in flames was more horrible to behold than the suffering and pitiable condition in which everyone was involved. Mothers, in search of a sanctuary or refuge for their little ones, and abandoning — their earthly goods to the greed of the relentless enemy, would retire to out-of-the-way places rather than be witnesses of their utter ruin.
“Fathers and husbands were busy in saving whatever objects the rapidly spreading flames would permit them to bear off, while the general bewilderment was such as to prevent them from finding even for these a place of security. The obscurity of the night coming on threw its mantle for a while over the saddening spectacle; but more horrible still was the sight, when day began to dawn, of entire families pouring forth into the public highways, yielding to their lamentations and despair, who, but a few hours before, had been basking in the enjoyment of more than the ordinary comforts of life.
“The tears, the heartbreaking sobs and the pallid faces of the wretched people mirrored the dire fatality that had overcome a city, now in ruins, transformed within the space of five hours into an arid and fearful, desert. Such was the sad ending of a work of death, the result of seventy years of industry.”
— Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró (1744 – June 4, 1795), summarizing the suffering that occurred during the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788. The Spanish army officer was governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida. He was one of the most popular of the Spanish governors largely because of his prompt response to the 1788 fire that devastated New Orleans.
Martha Washington often recalled the two saddest days of her life. The first was December 14, 1799, when her husband died. The second was in January 1801 when Thomas Jefferson visited Mount Vernon.
As a close friend explained, “She assured a party of gentlemen, of which I was one … that next to the loss of her husband,” Jefferson’s visit was the “most painful occurrence of her life.”
She had come to dislike Jefferson for his frequent attacks on President George Washington as a monarchist bent on destroying the rule of the people and a senile follower of the policies of Alexander Hamilton.
Jefferson refused to attend memorial services for the president, saying in private that the “republican spirit” in the nation might revive now that Washington was dead and the Federalists could no longer hide behind his heroic image.
In her late teens, Martha Dandridge caught the eye of Daniel Parke Custis, a wealthy Virginia planter 20 years her senior. Custis' father initially opposed the marriage, viewing the prospective bride's family as not being wealthy enough. He finally gave his consent, however, and the two were married in May of 1750. In their seven years together the couple had four children, two of whom died as toddlers. Daniel's sudden death in 1757 left Martha as the wealthiest widow in Virginia, with a 17,500 acre estate to manage and two very young children to raise alone, at the age of just 26. Several men, including a militia officer less than a year younger than Martha named George Washington, began courting her the following year. She married Washington on Jan. 6, 1759, and moved to his family home several months later. The next 16 years of Martha Washington's life were largely spent at Mount Vernon.
“I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education. Then mankind will eat to live, be able to do better mental and physical work and disease will be less frequent.”
— Fannie Farmer (1857-1915) was an American culinary expert whose Boston Cooking-School Cook Book became a widely used culinary text.
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be and often is, right under another. God said thou shalt not kill—at another time he said thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted — by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the elders of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right … even things which may be considered abominable to all those who do not understand the order of heaven.”
— Joseph Smith, American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement.
“But for you there would have been no Battle of Bull Run.”
— Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, at the trial of Civil War hostess and spy Rose Greenhow. Known as "Wild Rose," the woman born in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1817 was a leader in Washington society. Known to be a passionate secessionist, and one of the most renowned spies in the Civil War, among her accomplishments was the secret message she sent to General Pierre G.T. Beauregard which ultimately caused him to win the battle of Bull Run. She spied so successfully for the Confederacy that Jefferson Davis credited her with winning the battle of Manassas.
“[T]his little event, of France possessing herself of Louisiana, … is the embryo of a tornado which will burst on the countries on both shores of the Atlantic and involve in it’s effects their highest destinies.”
— President Thomas Jefferson wrote this prediction in an April 1802 letter to Pierre Samuel du Pont amid reports that Spain would retrocede to France the vast territory of Louisiana. As the United States had expanded westward, navigation of the Mississippi River and access to the port of New Orleans had become critical to American commerce, so this transfer of authority was cause for concern. Within a week of his letter to du Pont, Jefferson wrote U.S. Minister to France Robert Livingston: "every eye in the US. is now fixed on this affair of Louisiana. perhaps nothing since the revolutionary war has produced more uneasy sensations through the body of the nation."
“An enormous fleet appeared this morning, larger than has been before witnessed from this point. Everything looks as if preparations were almost ready for the enemy to commence a forward movement. The monster force before this city cannot longer remain in idleness. Persons well acquainted with the country bordering Yazoo Pass and the Coldwater say if the enemy succeed in getting their gunboats into the Coldwater they will never get out, and that an army of 1,000 could hold at bay and destroy an invading force of 50,000 in that country.”
— A telegram to the "Richmond Enquirer" of Feb. 28 from the correspondent of the Memphis Appeal, writing from Vicksburgh.
“We arrived at the arroyo of San Joseph Cupertino (now Stevens Creek), which is useful only for travelers. Here we halted for the night, having come eight leagues in seven and a half hours. From this place we have seen at our right the estuary which runs from the port of San Francisco.”
— From the diary on March 25, 1776 of Juan Bautista de Anza (July 6, 1736 – December 19, 1788) found the site for the Presidio of San Francisco on March 28, 1776.
“All trembling, I reached the Falls of Niagara, and oh, what a scene! My blood shudders still, although I am not a coward, at the grandeur of the Creator’s power; and I gazed motionless on this new display of the irresistible force of one of His elements.”
— John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851), was an American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter.
“In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.”
Image by Van Gough: Sketch on cream, machine-made wove paper; pencil, pen, ink.
— Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother Theo on Oct. 3, 1883: "I drew, among others, a woman in the barge with crepe around her cap because she was in mourning, and later a mother with a small child - this one had a purple scarf around her head."
“We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight.”
— John Adams, in response to his wife Abigail's March 31, 1776 letter not to forget about the nation’s women when fighting for America’s independence from Great Britain. He declined Abigail's "extraordinary code of laws."