Hortense Parker was the daughter of John Parker, an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad. She was born in Ripley, Ohio, in 1859. Hortense Parker was the first African American to enroll and graduate from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Enrolling in 1879, Parker graduated in 1883. She later became a schoolteacher in Kansas City, Missouri. Parker died on December 9, 1938, near St. Louis, Missouri.