BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Mum Bett Misbehaved and Made History

Posted by joyinhome on April 17, 2009

I just learned about this Misbehavin’ Woman this morning.

In 1781, Elizabeth Freeman, formerly known as Mum Bett, sued her “owner” then earned punitive damages and her freedom, making her the first enslaved African American woman to be freed in the history of Massachusetts. She is also the great-grandmother of W.E.B. DuBois.

She sued after being hit with a heated shovel for protecting her sister from such a blow and running away. Freeman hired an attorney citing constitutional law as her defense.

Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it– just to stand one minute on god’ airth a free woman–I would.

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