Myrtilla Miner was born in Upstate New York, where she earned er teaching degree from the Young Ladies’ Domestic Seminary. Although her father did not see much value in the degree, or in education itself, she became enthralled with books from an early age. She was frail child who was sick throughout most of her life.
Her family moved to rural Mississippi when she was a young girl, where they picked hops to try and make ends meet. It was her time in Mississippi that showed her the horrors of life as a slave. Her family endured a great deal of financial hardship, but Miner was still able to study hard and earn her degree.
She soon moved to Rochester, where she secured her first teaching position. She would teach all over New York and Rhode Island for two years before being sent back to Mississippi for failing health.
Once she returned, she offered to teach young slave girls how to read. Plantation owners rejected her offer as both immoral and illegal, but she remained determined. So much so that she overcame her chronic illness and went to Frederick Douglas to seek funding for her project. He was skeptical, but she managed to win him over, along with Harriet Beecher Stowe.
In 1851, Miner opened her school and set on the task of teaching her first six students how to read. Miner didn’t limit her aims to improving literacy, she wanted to empower these girls by turning them into teachers.
Today, the Miner Building is a part of the campus of Howard University.
About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn.