( 1861 - 1948 )
( All web links on this page are in "Blue" )
Described as a kind, gentle, truly understanding woman and humanitarian, Emily Bissell was born into a prominent Wilmington, Delaware family. Educated in private schools in Delaware and New York, Miss Bissell learned the value of charity work. At the age of fifteen she began the volunteer work that she would continue through her lifetime. Emily Bissell helped establish the West End Reading Room in Wilmington, which provided the city's first free kindergarten. She promoted children's causes and also worked to provide Americanization classes for new immigrants.
Emily Bissell's strong concern for the welfare of all people, especially women, led her to become a strong opponent of woman suffrage. On February 13, 1900, Miss Bissell addressed the United States Senate Committee on woman suffrage saying: "The woman suffrage movement is the only women's movement in existence after fifty years - hardwork finds itself not only in the minority, but with strong associations of women banded against it." She believed that politics was not an appropriate arena for women.
In 1907, at the request of her cousin Dr. John Wales, Miss Bissell began a fight against tuberculosis that would change her life, and ours. Dr. Wales, who worked at the "Brandywine Shack," an open-air tuberculosis sanatorium, warned that without better funding, patients would be sent home, spreading the disease before they died. Dr. Wales asked Bissell for her help.
Having read about Christmas Stamp sales in Denmark, Miss Bissell decided to try the idea in the United States. She hoped to raise $300. With money borrowed from friends, she designed a small postage-sized stamp, found an artist to render her design, and a printer who agreed to print 50,000 stamps in the brightest red they could find. She made arrangements to sell them at the post office, for one penny each to give even the most humble person a chance to help fight against tuberculosis.
When sales lagged, Emily Bissell used her influence with the editor of a Philadelphia newspaper, the "North American". With the paper's support she raised $3,000 the first year and the "shack" was saved. Her success sparked interest in a national campaign in 1908. Delaware's famous illustrator, Howard Pyle, designed the second stamp. Sold nationally, it raised over $100,000. Emily Bissell devoted the rest of her life to the anti-tuberculosis movement. She is recognized for her pivotal part in making Americans conscious of the fact that tuberculosis can be conquered and that the fight against the disease is a war in which there is a universal need for cooperation.