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An Uncommon Woman: The Life of Lydia Hamilton Smith (Keystone Books)

An Uncommon Woman: The Life of Lydia Hamilton Smith (Keystone Books)

Current price: $24.95
Publication Date: November 21st, 2023
Penn State University Press
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Lydia Hamilton Smith (1813-1884) was a prominent African American businesswoman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the longtime housekeeper, life companion, and collaborator of the state's abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens. In his biography of this remarkable woman, Mark Kelley reveals how Smith served the cause of abolition, managed Stevens's household, and through their relationship gained property and crossed racialized social boundaries.

Born a free woman near Gettysburg, Smith began working for Stevens in 1844. Her relationship with Stevens fascinated and infuriated many, and it made Smith a highly recognizable figure both locally and nationally. The two walked side-by-side in Lancaster and Washington, D.C., as they worked to secure the rights of African Americans, sheltered people on the Underground Railroad, managed two households, raised four children, and built a real-estate business. In the last years of Stevens's life, as his declining health threatened to short-circuit his work, Smith risked her own life to keep him alive while he led the drive to end slavery, impeach Andrew Johnson, and push for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.

An Uncommon Woman is a vital history that accords Lydia Hamilton Smith the recognition that she deserves. Every American should know Smith's inspiring story.

About the Author

Mark Kelley holds a PhD in journalism from Syracuse University. He worked for twenty-five years as a broadcast journalist and has taught journalism and mass communications at Goshen College, Syracuse University, the University of Maine, and the New England School of Communications. He resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Marty.