CT History for Kids: Meet Connecticut’s State Heroes

Few states have a state hero. (In fact, most sources say Connecticut is the ONLY state to have a state hero!)

But Connecticut has TWO, a state hero and a state heroine.

Our legislature, the Connecticut General Assembly, creates our state laws. Working at the state capitol in Hartford, Connecticut’s state senators and representatives decide which laws should become the rules we live by. Our laws help keep us safe and productive, healthy, and educated. Without its state laws, Connecticut would be a confusing and crazy place to live!

Sometimes the General Assembly creates laws that may not affect our everyday lives but are still very important. On October 1, 1985, our lawmakers voted to make Nathan Hale our state hero. Exactly 10 years later, the legislature made Prudence Crandall our state heroine.

Nathan Hale statue in Williams Park, New London Connecticut

Nathan Hale was born in Coventry and educated at Yale College (now Yale University). He served as a schoolmaster until he became a captain in the Continental Army in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. In September 1776, General George Washington asked a soldier to cross enemy lines to gather information about the British Army’s battle plans. Hale volunteered, but on his way back, he was captured by the British. He was hanged as a spy on September 22, 1776. Before he was killed, Hale reportedly said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Connecticut lawmakers honored this great patriot by making him our state hero.

Portrait of Prudence Crandall, Francis Alexander,
1834. image: Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections,
Cornell University Library

Prudence Crandall was a white woman born in Rhode Island on September 3, 1803. She moved to Connecticut and opened the Canterbury Female Boarding School, which at first was attended only by white girls. When Crandall admitted Sarah Harris, a Black student, in 1832, many white parents took their children out of her school. Crandall closed that school and opened the Canterbury Female Seminary in 1833. It was the first academy in New England for Black girls, or, as Crandall called them, “young Ladies and little Misses of color.” Many people were angry, and Crandall and her students faced hardships and violence. She even spent a night in jail for breaking a law that was passed to keep the school from operating. The school closed in 1834 after just 18 months. Crandall showed great courage and moral strength by taking a stand against prejudice. In 1886 the legislature, with Hartford author Mark Twain’s encouragement, honored her bravery and dedication with an annual pension of $400.

Who else would be a good state hero or heroine for Connecticut? Nominate your candidate here: https://www.ctexplored.org/my-state-hero-is/ and tell us why!


Prudence Crandall Museum

1 South Canterbury Road, Canterbury



Nathan Hale Homestead

2299 South Street, Coventry



Read More!

Elizabeth J. Normen, “Disrupters in Small Packages,” Connecticut Explored, Winter 2019-2020



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