Eliza Ann Bias


"Died." Frederick Douglass' Paper, 23 November 1855. From Accessible Archives © 2016 Accessible Archives Inc.

Eliza Ann Bias, wife of Dr. James Joshua Gould Bias, played a large part in the anti-slavery movement in Philadelphia.1 Born around 1815 in Maryland, Eliza spent her life helping slaves gain their freedom and raising her daughter.2 Although she lived in Philadelphia, she aided runaway slaves to flee to Canada, because of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Along with her husband, Eliza Ann Bias acted as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Moreover, she was a member of the Ladies’ Sanitary Association of St. Thomas’s African Episcopal Church (LSASTC).3 Working with other Black elite women, Bias raised funds for African American soldiers and other charitable institutions.

Bias was always mindful of the suffering of others and sought to ameliorate it. She was committed to education and social reform, and, as a member of the Female Literary Association (FLA), she was constantly engaged in dialogues that tackled the political and social issues at the time.4 FLA members saw it as their “duty to develop their God-given intellectual powers” and shared their writings by having them published in The Liberator.5

According to the newspaper article on Eliza Ann Bias, Eliza demonstrated strong Christian faith, even in the midst of her three-year illness. Most of her obituary centers on her faith in Christ and how she lived a good Christian life. The writer of the obituary portrayed Eliza Ann Bias as an angel that broke the chains of bondage for every slave in America. Eliza Ann Bias died young, and many mourned her death. Eliza Ann Bias did not leave behind a plethora of information, but the little that remains provides an insight into the life of a Black female activist.


Submitted by Stephanie Trader, Taught by: Professor Pier Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware Spring 2013.

Edited and Revised by Samantha de Vera, University of Delaware.


[1] “Died,” Frederick Douglass’ Papers, November 23, 1855, Accessed on March 10, 2013, Link

[2] “Eliza Bias.” Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc

[3]  Ella Forbes. African American Women During the Civil War. (New York, Garland). Link

[4] Jean Fagan Yellin and ‎John C. Van Horne. The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women’s Political Culture in Antebellum America. (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994), 116.

[5] Marie Lindhorst. “Politics in a Box: Sarah Mapps Douglass and the Female Literary Association, 1831–1833.” Journals.psu.edu, 263.