Esther “Hetty” Saunders

Esther Saunders

Pencil drawing of Esther Saunders by Anne H. Denn
Image courtesy of the Salem County Historical Society, Salem, NJ

Esther 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.