Prudence Crandall was born in Rhode Island on 3rd September, 1803. After being educated at a Society of Friends school in Plainfield, Connecticut, Crandall established her own private academy for girls at Canterbury.
The school was a great success until she decided to admit a black girl. When Crandall, a committed Quaker, refused to change her policy of educating black and white students together, parents began taking their children away from the school. With the support of William Lloyd Garrison and the Anti-Slavery Society, in March 1833, Crandall opened a school for black girls in Canterbury.
Local people were furious at Crandall's actions and attempts were made to prevent the school receiving essential supplies. The school continued and began to attract girls from Boston and Philadelphia. The local authorities then began using a vagrancy law against these students. These girls could now be given ten lashes of the whip for attending the school.
In 1834 Connecticut passed a law making it illegal to provide a free education for black students. When Crandall refused to obey the law she was arrested and imprisoned. Crandall was convicted but won the case on appeal. When news of the court decision reached Canterbury, a white mob attacked the school and threatened the lives of Crandall and her students. Afraid that the children would be killed or badly injured, Crandall decided to close her school down.
In September 1834 Crandall moved to Illinois where she married Calvin Philleo, a Baptist clergyman. Prudence Crandall died in Elk Falls, Kansas, on 28th January, 1890.