Delia Webster

Delia Webster
Delia Webster

Time Period

1820-1860

Subject Categories

Activist, Education, Equal Rights, Writers

Notable Facts

Active abolitionist in 1840's and 1850's.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

12/17/1817

Date of Death

1/18/1904

Primary Residence

Vergennes

Historical Significance

Delia Webster was born on December 17, 1817 in Vergennes, Vermont, an area with strong anti-slavery sentiment. She attended Vergennes Classical School, and later studied at Oberlin College. Oberlin had a reputation for its abolitionist activities and was a station on the underground railroad. Webster left Oberlin due to an unknown dispute with the college.

In 1843 Webster then moved on to Lexington, Kentucky where she founded the Lexington Female Missionary Society, a girl's school. In 1844, she and the Methodist minister Calvin Fairbank succeeded in transporting a black family (Lewis Hayden, his wife, Harriet, and their young son, Joseph) across the border to freedom in Ohio. Webster and Fairbank were, however, caught on the return trip. Webster was sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary, though Kentucky's governor pardoned her after she spent two months in jail. As a condition of her release, she proclaimed that she was not an abolitionist, which was obviously a false statement.

Webster returned to Vermont and wrote a book (published 1845) with her father about her trial. After a few years in the north, she moved to Madison, Ind., on the Kentucky border, where she tutored children and became a governess. She then bought a farm in Kentucky, where newspapers soon reported that many slaves had disappeared. She left Kentucky in 1854 after raids on the farm, threats, and scandal. She continued to lecture and write for a while. Webster died in Iowa in 1904 at the age of eighty-six.

Organizations or Movements

  • Abolitionist

Occupations

  • Abolitionist
  • Teacher

Education

  • Attended courses at Oberlin College

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "Vermont Women, Native Americans & African Americans" by Cynthia D. Bittinger Link

  • "Vermont's Delia Webster: Heroine or thief?" by Mark Bushnell Link

Additional Images

Delia Webster and sisters
Delia Webster and sisters