Uses education to escape from poverty

Thaddeus Stevens was born into a poor farming family in Caledonia County, Vermont, on April 4, 1792. His father, Joshua Stevens, was an alcoholic who deserted the family when Thad was five years old. His mother, Sarah Stevens, raised him and his three brothers alone. She encouraged her boys to work hard and get an education. She taught them to read at a young age, using the Bible as a textbook.

Thad was born with a deformed foot and lower leg— known as a clubfoot—that caused him to walk with a limp his whole life. Other children sometimes called him names or imitated the way he walked. But he got back at them with his keen intelligence and wit. Although young Thad could not run and play ball games with other kids, he excelled at swimming and horseback riding.

When a private school opened in nearby Peacham, Vermont, Sarah Stevens sold the farm so that Thad could attend. He was an eager student, although his teachers also called him "headstrong." At the age of nineteen, Stevens continued his education at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. With his quick mind and excellent speaking ability, he showed great skill in debate.

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