Laura Matilda Towne was born May 3, 1825 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A member of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, She was educated as both a homeopathic physician and a teacher. She was also a dedicated abolitionist. She was best known for forming one of the earliest freedmen’s schools (schools for newly-freed slaves). In 1862, she answered the call for volunteers when the Union captured Port Royal and other Sea Islands area of South Carolina. In September 1862 she established the Penn School, one of the earliest freedmen’s schools. She took care of the school for the rest of her life and eventually gave up practicing medicine. After her death, Penn School was transferred to Hampton Institute, at which time it began operating as the Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School. She died February 22, 1901, in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
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