One of the most romantic figures of the nineteenth century, the “girl orator” of the Civil War era lyceum (or lecture) circuit, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson enchanted the antebellum United States with her passion for justice. When she was just eighteen years old, Dickinson addressed the Pennsylvania Antislavery Society with a speech entitled “The Rights and Wrongs of Women.” It launched a wildly successful career on the lecture circuit. In 1864, she became the first woman to address the House of Representatives.
At the height of her popularity in 1872, Dickinson earned $23,000 annually—about $477,000 in 2018—which was more than the income of male contemporaries like Mark Twain. Her lecture, “What Shall We Do with Our Daughters?” analyzed societal standards for young girls, specifically their education and required dress. Likened to a modern-day Joan of Arc, Dickinson’s spellbinding lectures moved many women and men to further women’s rights.