Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith – A quiet Reformer with big Impact

Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith was a New York abolitionist, married to wealthy and powerful social reformer, politician and philanthrope Gerrit Smith (1797-1874) and mother of women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822-1911).

She was born on January 11, 1805, in Maryland, where her family had a farm and over 60 slaves. When she was 12, her father sold his slaves and the family moved to Upstate New York. She married Gerrit Smith 1822, when she was 17 and he was 25. They had 7 or 8 children, but only 2 lived into adulthood.

Ann turned the Smith estate in Peterboro into a sanctuary for other social reformers, activists and abolitionists and a place to receive not only financial, but also physical and emotional help. The Smiths purchased hundreds of slaves to set them free and provided for their passage to Canada. The Smith Mansion was also an Underground Railroad station for hundreds of fugitive slaves.

In 1835, Gerrit and Ann Smith offered their home to about 300 or 400 abolitionists who had come to gather to create the New York State Anti-Slavery Society. In 1841, Ann and Gerrit located a slave named Harriet Sims, who had been Ann’s slave when she was a child in Maryland, bought her and her husband free, and gave them a home in Peterboro.

In 1848, Frederick Douglass printed a letter by former slave and abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet on the frontpage of his North Star newspaper saying: “There are yet two places where slaveholders cannot come, Heaven and Peterboro.” Peterboro is today home to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and a National Historic Landmark.

Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith died aged 70, on Mach 6, 1875, briefly after her husband passed away, on the day which would have been his birthday.

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