In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m continuing to share a few of the ladies from my book, Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure. Today I’d like to share the story of Ann Ellsworth.
Who was she, you may ask? A polite young lady whose father, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, served as the commissioner of the Patent Office. The Ellsworth’s lived in Washington, D.C. in the first half of the 1800s.
When Ann was seventeen years old, her father’s friend, Samuel Finley Breeze Morse, was waiting for final approval by Congress to build the world’s first telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, Maryland. Samuel had given up on its passage before the Congress adjourned at midnight, and returned to his hotel. Henry managed to get the bill voted on, and passed by a vote of 89 to 83 on March 3, 1843. Henry told Ann the next morning and she was given permission to congratulate Samuel, and became the first person to tell him the good news. For this, Samuel promised to let her choose the first words, which she did with her mother. She chose the Bible verse Numbers 23:23, “What hath God wrought!”
On March 24, 1844, the message was sent via Morse’s telegraph to Baltimore and back in a matter of moments. Because Ann had written the message and delivered it to Morse, she has been honored as the first telegraph messenger girl. Recently, I learned that another famous lady was in the room. Dolley Madison witnessed the history making event, and then Morse invited her to send the first personal telegram. She sent a message to her cousin who lived in Baltimore.
Imagine being part of such a monumental moment as when a message could be sent over such a long distance in a matter of seconds. The ability to communicate more quickly led to other abilities and progress in other technologies, like phones and fax machines. On a personal note, my paternal grandparents both worked as telegraph operators in Georgia in the early 1900s.
Have you ever sent or received a telegram? What did it say?
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Thanks for swinging by to spend a few minutes with me. Until next time!
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