Prudence Crandall was born in Rhode Island in 1803, raised Quaker, and educated at a Society of Friends school. In 1831 she opened a private girls school in Canterbury, Connecticut. The school thrived until Crandall admitted Sarah Harris, a twenty-year old African-American woman who wanted to be a teacher. The community was appalled and parents twithdrew their white daughters from the school.
Undeterred from doing what she considered the right thing, Crandall recruited African American young women students for her next school, opened in 1833 solely for "young ladies and little misses of color." Local citizens used vagrancy laws against students to intimidate from attending the school. In 1834 Connecticut passed "the Black law," making it illegal to provide black students with free education. Crandall refused to close her school, was arrested and faced three trials. The final trial was dismissed for insufficient evidence, but when a mob attacked the school and her students were threatened, Prudence closed her school.
Prudence Crandall married Rev. Calvin Phileo in 1834 and left Connecticut, but continued teaching and championing equal rights for women and people of color. Prudence died on January 28, 1890 in Kansas. Her school is now the Prudence Crandall Museum.