Woman of the Century/Mattie A. Freeman
FREEMAN, Mrs. Mattie A., freethinker and lecturer, born in Sturgis, St. Joseph county, Mich., 9th August, 1839. Her ancestors were French and German, Americanized by generations MATTIE A. FREEMAN. of residence in the State of New York. Her father was a freethinker, her mother a close-communion Baptist. The mother tried to keep the children from what she considered the contamination of infidelity. They attended revivals and passed through all the usual experiences, but the daughter became an infidel in her early youth. Mrs. Freeman as a child learned rapidly. Her first public discussion was at the age of fourteen. An associate editor of a weekly newspaper had written an article on the inferiority of woman. Over a pen-name the school-girl replied to it. The controversy was kept up through several papers, the German student wondering, in the meantime, who it was that was making so effective an argument against him. He was thoroughly disgusted when he discovered that his opponent was a girl. At fifteen she taught her first school. It was a failure. She was yet in short dresses, and the "big" pupils refused to obey her. She endured it for six weeks, and then, disheartened and defeated, sent word to her father to take her home. About that time she heard Abby Kelly Foster speak on abolition, and the young girl's heart became filled with a burning hatred of slavery. Being invited soon after to take part in a public entertainment, she astonished all and offended some by giving a most radical anti-slavery speech. Her father was an old-time Whig and retained an intense admiration for Henry Clay. Even he was horrified to hear his young daughter, of whom he had been so proud, attack his dead pro-slavery idol. If her first attempt at teaching was a failure, the subsequent ones were crowned with success. She was hired to take charge of a winter school, receiving only one-third the pay that had been given to the male teachers, and had the credit of having had the !>est school ever taught in the district. Soon after the war, in a city in Illinois, whither she had gone from the Fast, a prominent so-called liberal minister preached a scathing sermon against women. Highly indignant, a committee of the suffrage association went to Mrs. Freeman and requested her to reply. At first she hesitated, but finally Conse n ted, and her lecture was a success. She has delivered many public lectures. After the Chicago fire Mrs. Freeman devoted herself to literary work, writing four years for a Chicago paper. She is the author of many serials, short stories and sketches. "Somebody's Ned," a story of prison reform, was published in 1850, and received many favorable notices. At that time Mrs. Freeman began her work in the Chicago Secular Union. To this for ten years she has devoted herself almost exclusively. She gave the first lecture on Henry George's "Progress and Poverty " ever delivered in Chicago. She is interested in the reform movement, and especially in woman's emancipation, which she is convinced underlies all other questions. Her last venture is the publication of the "Chicago Liberal." Her home is now in Chicago, and she is corresponding secretary of the American Secular Union.