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Jane Grey Swisshelm
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

1815-1884

Pittsburgh native Jane Grey Cannon Swisshelm was one of several children born to Thomas and Mary Cannon. When her father died in 1823, she undertook lace-making and painting to help her mother. Since there were no public schools in Pittsburgh at the time, she received a private education, and at age 15 she started teaching in Wilkinsburg, then just a village. At 20, she married James Swisshelm and moved with him to Louisville, Kentucky. Witnessing slavery first-hand, she became an outspoken abolitionist and wrote for the anti-slavery publication Spirit of Liberty when she moved back to Pittsburgh in the early 1840s. In 1848 she founded her own weekly newspaper, The Saturday Visitor. From this platform, she advocated her second great cause, that of women's property rights. Her reputation as a journalist grew. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, gave her a freelance job covering national politics in Washington, D.C. Swisshelm spent two months in the nation's capital, becoming the first woman to sit in the Senate reporters' gallery.

Their marriage an unhappy one, the Swisshelms separated in 1857. Jane Grey Swisshelm moved to Minnesota, where she continued her work as journalist and publisher. During the Civil War, while traveling and speaking in Washington, D.C., she was offered a government job by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who at one time had practiced law in Pittsburgh. Swisshelm worked at the Quartermaster's office in Washington for $65 a month. Dismissed from this job for criticizing President Andrew Johnson, Swisshelm returned to Pittsburgh. In 1866, after a lengthy lawsuit, she recovered the Swissvale home she had grown up in, and it was there that she spent the remainder of her days.

Jane Grey Swisshelm opened Savings Account No. 43854 at Dollar Bank on January 25, 1876.

 

Jane Grey Swisshelm signature from 1876

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