A late Wayne County resident now has her face on a postage stamp that can be purchased around the nation.  

U.S. Postal Service is honoring 10 men and women it describes as courageous for helping guide enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad network of secret routes and safe houses before the Civil War.

One of those was Catharine Coffin, who teamed with her husband, Levi, to offer a safe place for escaped slaves on their flight to freedom through Newport, now known as Fountain City. 

Stamps went on sale March 9, when a first-day-of-issue event took place at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Maryland.  

Wayne County resident Catharine Coffin is featured on a new U.S. Postal Service stamp. Photo supplied by USPS.

The railroad started as a loosely organized secret network of courageous and imaginative freedom seekers, and the brave operatives who assisted them, the U.S. Postal Service said in a news release.

The journey, whether on foot, horseback, carriage, wagon or boat, was difficult and exceedingly dangerous.  

The network evolved into a well-organized system responding to the increasing numbers of freedom seekers and a corresponding rise in attempts to thwart escapes.

“The Underground Railroad demonstrated the power of collective action and solidarity in achieving social change, even when the odds seemed insurmountable,” the release said. “The ingenuity and resilience of the freedom seekers and those who bravely assisted them in the face of adversity are truly inspiring and deserve to be highlighted.” 

Most volunteers remained anonymous, but some left their mark on history, including those pictured on the stamps. 

In addition to Catharine Coffin, the set of 10 stamps features Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, Laura Haviland, Lewis Hayden, Harriet Jacobs, William Lambert, the Rev. Jermain Loguen, William Still and Harriet Tubman.

The postal service said the men and women pictured worked ceaselessly to improve the American experience for many. 

Each year, the USPS receives thousands of letters and petitions suggesting hundreds of different topics for new stamps. 

The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which includes individuals having a strong background in history, science, technology, art, education, sports and other subjects of public interest, reviews suggestions and makes suggestions to the postmaster general. 

Committee recommendations are based on national interest, historical perspective and other criteria that can be viewed at: https://about.usps.com/who/csac/#criteria.

Stamps may be purchased at post offices, usps.com/shopstamps or by calling 844-737-7826. 

Upcoming program

“Women and the Underground Railroad: Catharine Coffin”: 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, March 21, Levi & Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, 201 U.S. 27 N., Fountain City. Site manager Joanna Hahn shares her research on Catharine Coffin and her Underground Railroad work. Hahn says women like Coffin were key to aiding freedom seekers by opening their homes, coordinating resources and being just as vocal in their support, but there’s still much to learn about her experience. $8. Maximum of 40 people. For ages 9-plus. 765-847-1691.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 13 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.