Catherine Ferguson, or “Katy” as she was called, was determined from the age of 8 to gain her freedom and make the world a better place. She did both.
Children, both black and white, came to Ferguson’s home at 51 Warren Street to learn to read the Bible. Some say this was the first Sunday school in New York City.
Catherine (“Katy”) Ferguson was born in 1779 with almost nothing—not even freedom. Her mother was sold away when she was 8 years old. That was when Katy became determined to gain her freedom and make the world a better place. She did both.
First she wanted to learn to read. Her mistress said she was too smart already—smarter than her own children — and refused her. At the age of 10 she asked her master for her freedom, promising to live a life serving God. He refused her. At 16 she found a woman who agreed to purchase her freedom for $200 if Katy would repay her. It took Katy 11 months of work to pay $100 back; then someone in her church paid the remaining debt. Katy was finally free.
To make a living she made wedding cakes, the best in town. The rest of the time she helped others. She began to take children in off the street on Sundays and got others to teach them to read the Bible. When her minister heard what she was doing, he offered to move the group to the basement of his church. Some say this was the first Sunday school in the city.
Katy also took in a total of 48 needy children, 20 of them white. She cared for them, fed them, and found them all good homes. When Ferguson died, the newspapers wrote, “Thousands in this community have heard of or known Katy Ferguson…the celebrated cake-maker for weddings and other social parties. But many…may be ignorant of the… extraordinary good deeds which crowned her life.” The reporter also said that wherever Katy lived, the whole neighborhood became a better place for it.
This entry contributed by Curriculum Concepts International