Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, abolitionist and plaintiff in an historic civil rights suit in which she won her own freedom.

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Elizabeth Freeman (“Mumbet”) was born a slave around 1742. She was raised, along with her younger sister Lizzie, in Claverack, Columbia County, New York (about 20 miles south of Albany). Her owner, a Dutchman named Pieter Hogeboom, gave the two girls to Sheffield, Massachusetts, resident John Ashley when he married Hogeboom’s daughter Annetje.

Family lore suggests that after 40 years of bondage in the Ashley household, Mumbet was prompted to seek her freedom when Annetje attempted to strike Mumbet’s younger sister with a shovel. Mumbet blocked the blow, but was seriously injured, never regaining the full use of her arm. In a contrasting account, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, who would later record Mumbet’s life story, reported that Freeman decided to seek freedom after hearing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

To learn more about this person visit your local library.

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