Defining Lydia Hamilton Smith

Defining Lydia Hamilton Smith

On Thursday, February 15, join LancasterHistory as we welcome author Mark Kelley for a discussion on his latest book, An Uncommon Woman, a new biography of Lydia Hamilton Smith (1813-1884), a prominent mixed-race businesswoman who lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

A graphic with two images. The image on the left is a headshot photo of an older adult man with white hair and a collared green shirt. The image on the right is the book cover of "An Uncommon Woman" featuring a portrait of an adult woman with her hair tied back and up on her head and a deep V-neck dress.
Author Mark Kelley (left) and the cover of “An Uncommon Woman” (right).

Ever since Lydia Hamilton Smith arrived in Lancaster to serve as Thaddeus Stevens’ housekeeper 184 years ago, people have been trying to define her. Stevens’ biographers have noted her importance to the radical congressman. Racists have attacked her. Defenders have celebrated her. Dr. Mark Kelley is the author of An Uncommon Woman, a new biography of Smith jointly published by Penn State Press and LancasterHistory in 2023. Kelley will join us to discuss this remarkable woman, what we know about her, and why her story matters.

Mark Kelley holds a Ph.D. in journalism from Syracuse University. He worked for twenty-five years as a broadcast journalist and has taught journalism and mass communications at Goshen College, Syracuse University, the University of Maine, and the New England School of Communications. An Uncommon Woman is his fourth book. Kelley currently serves on the Scholarly Advisory Committee for the Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy, a museum under development by LancasterHistory. He resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Marty.


This event is expected to take place in person at LancasterHistory on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Doors open and the reception begins at 5pm. The lecture will begin at 5:30pm. The lecture will also be streamed to Zoom at 5:30pm for those who wish to join us virtually.

This program is free and open to the public. In-person attendance requires advance registration in order to guarantee a seat. Due to capacity restrictions, tickets may not be available at the door. Virtual attendance requires advance registration in order to receive the Zoom link. Register online by clicking the appropriate link below or by calling (717) 392-4633. Registration will close online on Thursday, February 15 at 5:30pm. The online version of this program will also be recorded and uploaded to LancasterHistory’s YouTube channel after the event.

In-person registration is sold out and not accepting a waiting list. Please consider attending via Zoom. Thank you for your interest!


By purchasing a ticket to our facility and/or program, you are agreeing to our Admissions & Programs Terms and Conditions.

Membership Makes History Happen! Your membership enables us to bring dynamic speakers to LancasterHistory and gives you other exciting benefits! Learn more about becoming a member of LancasterHistory or renewing your membership today.

In-Person Event Lecture Online/Virtual Event Reception

February 15, 2024 In Person at LancasterHistory & Online via Zoom 5pm Reception | 5:30pm Lecture FREE | Registration Required