Laura Matilda Towne

A middle aged woman with hair styled in a bun.

Laura Matilda Towne. VCU Libraries Social Welfare History Project.

(1825-1901) Influenced by the sermons about the abolition of slavery, Towne volunteered to go to South Carolina to help the formerly enslaved people of Port Royal and other South Carolina sea islands. With the help of her friend, Ellen Murray, they founded the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. Penn Center was the first school for newly freed slaves in the United States. Towne and Murray provided medical care at the center. They also taught their students how to read and write and supported the people in acquiring land rights.