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Laura S. Haviland (1808–1898)

Author of A woman's life-work; labors and experiences

Includes the names: Laura S. Haviland, Laura Smith Haviland

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Laura Smith Haviland was born in Kitley Township, Ontario, Canada to an American Quaker family. When she was a child, her parents took the family back to the USA, settling in Cambria, a remote town in western New York. Her education consisted of spelling lessons from her mother and reading books borrowed from friends, relatives, and neighbors. In 1825, at age 16, she married Charles Haviland, Jr., a farmer, with whom she had eight children. They homesteaded in Raisin, in the southeastern Michigan Territory, and helped organize the first anti-slavery organization there. She and her husband founded a school for poor children later known as the Raisin Institute. It was one of the first schools to admit black children. During the 1830s, the family began hiding fugitive slaves on their farm, which became the first Underground Railroad station in Michigan. Laura's husband died when she was 36, leaving her with seven children to support, a farm to run, the Raisin Institute to manage, and substantial debts. However, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, she continued to shelter runaway slaves in her home, sometimes personally escorting them to Canada. She endured lawsuits and threats against her life from slave owners angered at losing their "property." During the Civil War, she traveled down the Mississippi to nurse wounded soldiers and former slaves, and later to Kansas to assist the refugees pouring in there. Her autobiography, entitled A Woman's Life-Work, was published in 1881. Haviland, Kansas, and Haviland, Ohio, are named in her honor.
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