Harriet Bishop was a woman of many firsts, all of which dramatically impacted the frontier territory that would become Minnesota. She is perhaps best remembered for her role as the first public schoolteacher in St. Paul in 1847. Charged with a sense of the importance of feminine virtue, Christian duty and divinely inspired education, Harriet Bishop and her school helped to transform the rugged outpost of St. Paul into a flourishing town. Of equal importance was her participation in and support of the First Baptist Church, the St. Paul Circle of Industry, the Baptist Women's Sewing Circle, the Territorial Temperance Society, the Christian Aid Society, the St. Paul Women's Seminary, and the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association. Harriet Bishop pioneered St. Paul's first Protestant Sunday school and joined the Minnesota Historical Society as a founding member. In addition, she acted as the first state organizer of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
In all of these endeavors, Harriet Bishop sought to enhance the stability and morality of Minnesota, establish a society of like-minded individuals, and improve the lot of Christian women like herself. Harriet's books, including Floral Home and Minnesota Then and Now, also served these purposes. They provided a ladylike appeal for a larger feminine sphere of influence and acted as prime Minnesota booster material. While calling for further settlement of her beloved adopted home, Harriet declared, "If Earth has a paradise, it is here." Indeed, if St. Paul and Minnesota were Harriet Bishop's vision of paradise, it was because of her lifelong struggle to make it so.
~Katie McKee, St. Paul, MN, and Judith Hentges, Minneapolis, MN