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Esther “Hetty” Saunders

Pencil drawing of Esther SaundersEsther Saunders (1793-1862) was a free African American woman living in Salem County during the first half of the 19th century.

Known as “Hetty,” Saunders was the daughter of an escaped slave from Delaware who had sought shelter for his small daughter among Salem County Quakers. Raised in the Hall family of Elsinboro Hetty worked as a servant in their household and later in other Salem County households. She eventually saved enough money to build a house on land provided to her by her employers.

Saunders worked hard all her life but managed to take time to express her inner life through poetry. None of her poems were published while Saunders was alive and only fifteen have been posthumously published.

Questions to Explore

What were some of Saunders Poems about?

Why was Saunders known as “Hetty”? 

Additional Resources

Moses Sibyl E. 2006. African American Women Writers in New Jersey 1836-2000 : A Biographical Dictionary and Bibliographic Guide. New Brunswick N.J: Rutgers University Press. https://njwomenshistory.org/biographies/ 

Saunders Hetty Donald L Pierce and Salem County Historical Society. 2001. I Love to Live Alone : The Poems of Esther “Hetty” Saunders. Salem N.J: Salem County Historical Society.https://www.worldcat.org/title/52281696