Thank You, Sarah Jane Woodson

Sarah Jane Woodson

Every woman who ever graduated from college can look back and say a special “thank you” to Sarah Jane Woodson—one of the first women and one of the first blacks to graduate from an American College. Oberlin College in Ohio began admitting African-Americans and women in 1833—while in the south it was still illegal to educate African-Americans. Sarah Jane was born free in Ohio in 1825, the youngest of eleven children. She enrolled in Oberlin College in 1852 and graduated four years later, earning her tuition money during vacations by teaching children in segregated schools in Circleville and Portsmouh, Ohio. She taught at Ohio’s Wilberforce College, one of the first of her race or sex accepted on a university faculty. And to underscore how important education was to minority women who sought freedom and new opportunities in the west, an 1860 census report for a dozen western states and territories showed the 50 percent school attendance for black women equaled that of white women.

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