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This Noble Woman Review by Brittney Rutherford

Myrtilla Miner and Her Fight to Establish a School for African American Girls in the Slaveholding South
Michael M Greenburg
Chicago Review Press
(312) 337-0747
814 North Franklin Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610

This Noble Woman, subtitled “Myrtilla Miner and Her Fight to Establish a School for African American Girls in the Slaveholding South” is a young adult biography published by Chicago Review Press. It tells the story of a Myrtilla Miner, an educator, feminist, abolitionist.

Myrtilla Miner was a poor woman from New York, who realized early on that women were given fewer opportunities and faced more obstacles than men. She was a weak, sick child, but didn’t let that stop her from pursuing an education, even though it wasn’t considered necessary for homemakers and farmers, which is the direction her father thought she should take.

As a teacher she moved to different states for teaching positions, and began to take more notice to educational reform, and the educational neglect of African Americans. From the north, she wasn’t truly accustomed to the tragedy of slavery until accepting a teaching position in Mississippi. That is when her desire to help educate African Americans really began to really take root. 

Throughout the book, we learn of the hostility and opposition that Myrtilla faced as a woman, feminist, and abolitionist in creating a school for African American girls. We learn about her contacts, those who warned her against her goal, and those who were friends and allies. The book is also peppered with background and historical information that is relevant to Miner’s plight, such as a Quaker in Connecticut who not only admitted a black student, but eventually dismissed all the white students in her school to make a statement and educate African American girls. The biography is supported with direct quotes and historic photos, which help bring Myrtle’s work into perspective for us. Also scattered throughout the book are vignettes of important people and events during Myrtle’s time, especially as they related to feminists, the suffrage movement, education, slavery, and abolitionists. This helps give the reader an understanding of the historical and political climate in which Miner was forging through. The book wraps up by telling us what happened to the school in the years following the Civil War, desegregation, and how Miner’s legacy lives on today.

I believe biographies should be used to enhance history and help us form relationships with real people, and learn about the feelings and actions of individuals that, as a collective, would become the driving force behind major events in history. This Noble Woman is a great choice if you’re looking for a biography on a female or someone non-traditional. Myrtilla Miner’s story presents many opportunities for discussion, including the denial of education as a tool of oppression, persistence in the face of opposition, and choosing to do what is moral and ethical, even if it is not legal or socially acceptable. The book is well written for the intended audience, and is appropriate for middle school and high school students, or even as light reading for adults.

-Product review by Brittney Rutherford, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, November, 2018