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Central Minnesota Women In History: Jane Grey Swisshelm

Stearns History Museum

ST. CLOUD — In honor of Women’s History Month each week in March we will feature a different woman from central Minnesota who has been a trailblazer for many in our area. This week we put our scope on the first woman editor of the newspaper, The St. Cloud Visitor.

Jane Grey Swisshelm grew up in Pittsburgh. She moved to St. Cloud in 1857 with her daughter Mary and became the editor of a local paper called the St. Cloud Visitor.

She was an advocate for women’s rights and she was an abolitionist. Her editorials reflected her strong views on human rights. Swisshelm’s articles drew strong criticism from some local slave owners including one of St. Cloud’s founding fathers Sylvanus Lowry.

In the mid 1800s St. Cloud was divided into three sections, upper town, middle town and lower town. Lowry founded upper town which at the time was known to be settled by slave holding southerners.

On the night of March 24, 1858 someone broke into Swisshelm’s newspaper office and vandalized her printing equipment. Her printing presses were thrown into the Mississippi River.

The suspects left a warning note that stated, “if you ever again attempt to publish a paper in St. Cloud, you yourself will be as summarily dealt with as your office has been.”

Local citizens rallied to support Swisshelm and raised enough money to buy new equipment. The warning note didn’t stop her from reopening her shop and starting a new paper called, St. Cloud Democrat.

Swisshelm went on to become the first woman journalist accredited to the United States Congress.

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