Celebrating Black History Month Part 1

During Black History Month, I’ve been highlighting at least one black woman each day on the Saints, Sisters, and Sluts Facebook page. I share other people’s posts, but I’ve made an effort to post at least one woman each day that is new to me or that I’ve learned something new about, and I’ve learned so much. However, there are people who follow the blog or follow me on twitter that don’t see the Facebook posts, so I decided to post that information here as well. It will also give me a handy place to refer to, because some of these women I want to learn more about, possibly for future blog posts.

All of the women I’ve posted have been African Americans. I didn’t necessarily intend it to be that way, Canada and Britain celebrate as well, there are two women Presidents in Africa now, and black women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize recently, but there is so much of my own country’s history that I still don’t know, so I just went where my search led me. There are many more women who could be highlighted, 28 days just isn’t enough. I’m going to break this up into several posts to keep them relatively short and readable. Please comment and let me know who your favorites are or more information about these women.

Maggie L. Walker

Maggie L. Walker

Maggie Lena Walker
Maggie Lena Walker (1864 – 1934) was an African-American business woman. She was the first woman to charter a bank in the US and the first female bank president. Working with the Independent Order of St. Luke, she established a newspaper, The St. Luke Herald, and chartered the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank.

Maggie Walker worked to create tangible improvements in the lives of women and African Americans. She also was an example for people with disabilities later in life when she was confined to a wheelchair. The Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Richmond, VA is named for her and her home was designated a National Historic Site and opened as a museum in 1985.

Edith S. Sampson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1949

Edith S. Sampson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1949

Edith Spurlock Sampson
Edith Spurlock Sampson (1898 – 1979) left school at 14 because of family financial difficulties. She cleaned and de-boned fish at a fish market, but was able to return to school and graduate. She went on to study social work at the New York School of Social Work, then went to law school while working full time as a social worker.

After graduating from John Marshall Law School, she opened a law office and worked with the Juvenile Court system and as a probation officer. In 1927, she became the first woman to receive a Master of Laws from Loyola University’s graduate program and passed the Illinois bar exam. In 1934 she was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the US. Sampson was the first black woman elected as a judge in the state of Illinois, was the first African-American appointed as a delegate to the United Nations, and was the first African American US representative to NATO.

Audrey Forbes Manley

Audrey Forbes Manley

Audrey Forbes Manley
Audrey Forbes Manley (b. 1934) is an American pediatrician and public health administrator. After graduating from Spelman College and Meharry Medical College, she began a distinguished career that included private practice and becoming chief of medical services at Grady Memorial Hospital’s Emory University Family Planning Clinic. Manley began her career in Public Health in 1976 eventually becoming US Deputy Surgeon General and acting Surgeon General from 1995 to 1997 when she became the President of her alma mater Spelman College.

Rosa Parks arrest in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on the bus

Rosa Parks arrest in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on the bus

Rosa Parks
February 4th of this year would have been Rosa Park’s 100th birthday. Most of us are familiar with her act of civil disobedience in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat in the ‘colored’ section of the bus to a white man, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But Parks was more than a demure seamstress, she had been an active participant in the fight for civil rights since 1943. She also endured many hardships due to her involvement in the movement. She and her husband eventually moved to Detroit MI to try to find work. Jeanne Theoharis, political science professor at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, has written a new biography of Rosa Parks which sounds excellent, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. She gave a presentation about Rosa Parks which you can view online.

Elizabeth Jennings c. 1895

Elizabeth Jennings c. 1895

Elizabeth Jennings
One hundred years before Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on the bus, Elizabeth Jennings insisted on her right to ride on a street car in NYC. When she was removed, she filed a law suit. Future President Chester Arthur won the case and the street cars of the city were integrated as a result. See Patricia Dolton’s blog post for more information. Not much is known about her later life. She was a teacher, church organist, and she opened the first kindergarten for black children in NYC.

Leontyne Price

Leontyne Price

Leontyne Price
Leontyne Price is an American soprano with an exquisite voice. Although Price wasn’t the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, she was the first to sing many different roles at the Met and to build an opera career in the US and in Europe. When she debuted on January 27, 1961, the final ovation was 35 minutes, one of the longest in the history of the Met. Prior to this she had developed her reputation in Europe including being the first African American to sing a leading role in Italy’s great opera house, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Her many awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, and 19 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award..

Plácido Domingo wrote, “The power and sensuousness of Leontyne’s voice were phenomenal–the most beautiful Verdi soprano I have ever heard.”

Delta Sigma Theta founders

Delta Sigma Theta founders

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded by 22 women from Howard University in 1913. Their first public act was to march in the Women’s Suffrage March on March 3, 1913. The participation of African American women in 1913 was controversial, but this year ΔΣθ is sponsoring the march on March 3, 2013 to commemorate the Centennial of the 1913 march which changed the tide of the women’s suffrage movement. The National Women’s History Museum invites you to join them.

Regarding their decision to march in the Suffrage Parade in 1913, founder Florence Letcher Toms commented, “We marched that day in order that women might come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education. And the right to vote would give them that privilege.”

A sisterhood of more than 300,000 predominantly Black college-educated women, the sorority currently has over 1,000 chapters located in the United States, England, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Republic of Korea. (from Wikipedia)

Continue to read Celebrating Black History Month in Part2 and Part 3.

Susan B Anthony – “Failure is Impossible”

“I never felt I could give up my life of freedom to become a man’s housekeeper.  When I was young, if a girl married poor she became a housekeeper and a drudge.  If she married wealthy, she became a pet and a doll.” ~Susan B. Anthony

When I first began reading about woman suffrage several years ago, I wondered why the only name I remembered from school was Susan B. Anthony. There were so many women involved in the movement that played major roles – Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone, two about whom I’ve already written– and that’s before you even begin to talk about the women who brought the movement home so to speak, such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. One reason is that women have often been slighted in history, but if you had to choose one woman to represent the movement, why Susan B Anthony?

Of course, I can’t be sure, but one reason I would choose her is because of the major players, Anthony was probably the most single minded and driven. She came to the movement late, but when she did, she never wavered, and when it was clear that the goal wouldn’t be reached in her lifetime, she spent considerable time mentoring younger women to carry on the fight. She was tireless. While Elizabeth Cady Stanton might be seen as the philosopher of the movement, Susan was the tactician, the organizer. She organized national women’s conventions almost every year after the Civil War, selecting places and speakers, raising money, organizing local women’s groups, traveling extensively to promote the cause and rally the troops. When others might have given up, she said “failure is impossible.”

Susan Brownell Anthony was the second of seven children born to Lucy Read and Daniel Anthony on February 15, 1820. While Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone grew up with the idea that it was a disadvantage to be a woman; that wasn’t the case with Susan. Daniel Anthony was a Quaker who instilled in his children a sense of their own self-worth and that of all human beings. Although women and men sat on opposite sides of the meeting house, Susan’s grandmother was an elder and her aunt preached freely when she was moved to do so. Her grandfather believed so strongly in education that he built a school on his own property for his children and the neighbors. Later when Susan’s teacher didn’t see the need to teach girls long division, Daniel Anthony did the same thing.

The Anthonys believed in education, self-determination and self-discipline. Daniel Anthony was a good Quaker, but he also had an independent streak. When he decided to marry Lucy Read a non-Quaker, his meeting disapproved, but he stood his ground. Lucy was not so sure about giving up her bright colors and dances, but gave in and they were married. As time went on they both became involved in the temperance and abolitionist movements, and they passed these values on to their children.

When Susan was young, the family was well off. Her father owned a successful cotton mill, but they didn’t live a life of leisure. Many of the mill workers boarded with the family, so Susan’s mother was constantly working and Susan helped out as soon as she was old enough. Her father started an evening school for the mill workers and as soon as Susan and her elder sister Guelma were old enough they began teaching in the home school or nearby villages.

Susan and Guelma were both able to go to Deborah Moulson’s Female Seminary, a boarding school in Philadelphia, but in the depression of 1837 their father’s business failed and they had to return home. At 17, Susan was well qualified to teach, so she did her part to support the family and work to pay off their debts. In this endeavor, she would encounter her first real disadvantage being a woman, when she realized that she was paid ¼ the salary of men doing the same job, even when she was more qualified. This experience would prompt her to advocate for equal pay for equal work during most of her women’s rights work.

After several years of hard work, in 1845 when Susan was 25, she moved with her parents and two siblings to their new home on a small farm near Rochester, NY. The farm was purchased by Lucy’s brother with money which had been left to her by her father. If the money or the farm had been put in Lucy’s name it would legally belong to Daniel and could then be seized by his creditors. The Quaker’s of Rochester welcomed the Anthony family and introduced them to a very active anti-slavery community. Here Susan learned about the Underground Railroad and began reading The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery paper.

Susan soon left the farm to accept a teaching position at the Canajoharie Academy, where her uncle James Read was a trustee. It was here that Susan made her first public speech. In both the temperance and abolitionist movements there was disagreement, sometimes violent disagreement, about whether or not to allow women to speak to “promiscuous” meetings, meetings including both men and women. In Canajoharie, the Sons of Temperance refused to allow women to speak, so the women formed the Daughters of Temperance. Most of the women were uneasy at the idea of speaking in public, but Susan, raised in Quaker meeting where women were welcome to speak, thought nothing of it. Her speech at their first meeting, attended by approximately 200 men and women, was a success.

Because of the distance to Rochester, she spent her vacations with Guelma and Hannah and their families or with Lydia Mott, one of her former teachers at Deborah Moulson’s school and cousin of Lucretia Mott. From Lydia, she learned more about the abolitionist movement. It was during this time, in 1948, that the Seneca Falls Woman Rights Convention was held, and attended by Daniel and Lucy Anthony and Susan’s younger sister Mary. All three were very impressed with the speakers, especially Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and signed the Declaration of Sentiments, the statement of resolutions for women’s rights that resulted from the convention. When Susan heard about this, she wasn’t opposed, but she found it surprising and somewhat amusing. After all, she hadn’t experienced the opposition that many women faced.

Although she didn’t embrace the women’s movement immediately, she was very intrigued by what her family was telling her about the women involved, so she welcomed the opportunity to get to know Elizabeth Cady Stanton when she met her in Seneca Falls in 1851. It was the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime and would be the foundation of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

In 1852, Susan attended her first women’s rights convention in Syracuse, while at the same time becoming more and more active in the abolitionist movement. She began lecturing for William Lloyd Garrisons Anti-Slavery Association in 1956, and started to experience the opposition directed at women such as the Grimke sisters, Abby Kelly, and Lucy Stone when they lectured. By the time of the Civil War, Susan was convinced of the need for women’s rights reform and suffrage, and was working closely with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to bring it about.

Although, she had received a couple of offers of marriage, Susan chose to remain single. She didn’t see the need to tie her self to a man and thereby restrict her own actions and work. She was often impatient with the women who did, even with Elizabeth and Lucy, and was critical of their divided loyalties. After the Civil War, Elizabeth and Susan worked very closely. While Elizabeth still had children at home, Susan did much of the traveling to spread their message. She organized annual women’s rights conventions, doing most of the logistical work while Elizabeth did most of the writing, including many of Susan’s speeches. Together they published The Revolution, a newspaper devoted to women’s issues. Elizabeth was the editor, and Susan was the publisher and business manager. Elizabeth always had a very broad even radical view of what was needed and should be fought for; Susan felt that if suffrage was achieved all the rest would follow.

Several major strategies were used during those years to approach the suffrage question. One, championed initially by Victoria Woodhull, was that women already had the vote by virtue of the 14th Amendment and should just do it. Women were citizens and therefore couldn’t be denied one of the rights of citizenship – voting. In preparation for the 1872 presidential election, Susan organized women to register to vote. Many were turned away, but Susan and a group of women were successful at registering and later casting their votes for president. Two weeks later, she was arrested and eventually tried and convicted for “knowingly casting an illegal vote in a federal election.” She was fined $100, which she refused to pay. The result was probably a public relations victory on her side. No attempt was ever made to make her pay the fine and she arranged for the trial transcripts to be printed and distributed, promoting her cause.

Susan lectured and campaigned in every state promoting local and state suffrage for women, but she always believed that the solution was a federal amendment to the Constitution. In 1878, she finally succeeded in getting a proposed amendment introduced into Congress. Proposing it as the sixteenth amendment, it was introduced every year until 1919 when it finally passed as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

As with most of the original suffragists, Susan wouldn’t live to see the passage of the amendment she had worked tirelessly to bring about. Her last appearance before the Senate’s Select Committee on Woman’s Suffrage was in 1902 because of failing health, but she made one last speech in 1906 on her 86th birthday one month before she died. Surveying the women who had joined the movement, many of whom she had mentored, she declared that “ with such women consecrating their lives – Failure is Impossible.”

Susan B. Anthony Birthplace: 67 East Rd, Adams, MA.
Photograph by James Parrish

History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton  et. al.
The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony
by Ida Husted Harper
Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists
by Jean H. Baker
Susan B. Anthony by Alma Lutz

Trial Homepage – nice write up of her registration, vote, and the events leading up to the trial as well as links to the trial transcript.
Lucy Stone – Abolitionist and Suffragist
Elizabeth Cady Stanton – Suffragist and Women’s Rights Activist

Lucy Stone (1818 – 1893) – Abolitionist and Suffragist

Lucy Stone c. 1850, Library of Congress (source)

Lucy Stone c. 1850, Library of Congress (source)

Common causes often draw people together, but it’s not always sufficient to keep them together. Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony are often called the “triumvirate” of the women’s suffrage movement. All three were ardent abolitionists, and all three began speaking for women’s suffrage early in the movement. In many ways that’s where the similarities end.

Lucy Stone was born in 1818, the eighth of nine children to Francis and Hannah Matthews Stone. Unlike Stanton, she was not born into a family of means. Francis Stone owned a small farm in Massachusetts where everyone in the family had to contribute to survive. The boys fished and hunted; the girls made cheese and did piecework to help make ends meet. Francis was also a drinking man and one that believed firmly in a “woman’s place.” He was physically and verbally abusive and Hannah often had to beg him for money to get things for the girls. Where Stanton’s father wished she were a boy because he wanted a boy, Lucy’s mother wished she and her sisters were boys because “a woman’s life is so hard.”

Around the age of twelve Lucy took on much of the housework because of her mother’s ill health, yet she still managed to do well in school. In 1837, at the age of 16, she started to teach. Her dream was to go to Oberlin College. Her father paid for the boys to go to boarding school and then college, but he didn’t believe it was necessary for a woman. At this point, Lucy had probably begun to be a trial for her father. She saw her mother’s position as a trap in which she didn’t want to be caught. They were members of their local Congregationalist church which reinforced many of her father’s ideas. In 1838, the officials of the church condemned the use of the pulpit for abolitionist speeches particularly by women. The Grimke sisters from South Carolina and Abby Kelley had begun to speak against slavery to mixed groups of men and women. The church viewed this as a violation of what they saw as the Bible’s prohibition against women teaching men. Lucy decided two things then: that she would study Greek and Hebrew to better understand the Biblical passages and that if she ever had anything to speak about in public that she would do it.

Between 1838 and 1843, she continued to teach and study when she could. Two of her sisters died during this time and she helped with the children, supporting her mother. One thing that she did learn from her family was her hatred for slavery. She kept up with the fight by reading The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery newspaper, with particular interest in the divisions in the American Anti-Slavery Society caused by women speaking out. She wrote to her brother that some in the Society wanted to “crush Garrison and the women. While it pretends to endeavor to remove the yoke of bondage on account of color, it is actually summoning all its energies to rivet more and more firmly the chains that have always been fastened upon the neck of woman.” Later when she began to speak publicly for the abolitionist cause, she was criticized for injecting women’s rights issues into her speeches.

In 1843, Lucy had finally saved enough money for her first year at Oberlin. She continued to work and study and was able to graduate in 1847 with honors. (Her father also insisted that she compensate him for the money that she was denying the household by being away at college, which she did.) Although Oberlin was ahead of it’s time in many ways (they admitted both African American students and women), they were still constrained by the society in others. The student body selected Lucy to write a speech for the graduation ceremony. The catch was that she would not be able to deliver the speech because she was a woman and the audience would contain both men and women. After much thought, although she had decided to pursue a career as a public speaker, she chose not to write the speech rather than compromise her principles.

One thing that helped Lucy make her decision to pursue public speaking was her experience in a debate club that she founded while at school. During her time there, she met Antoinette Brown, a young woman who was studying to be a minister. While studying rhetoric, they were not allowed to debate in the class, you guessed it, because they were women and the class contained men. They were expected to watch the men debate and keep silent. So they started their own debate club off campus. Then in October of 1847, Lucy gave her first public speech called The Province of Women and her career began.

In 1848, Lucy was hired by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Philips as a lecturer and organizer for the Boston Anti-Slavery Society. In 1850, she worked with Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis and others to organize a national convention on women’s rights. At the convention her speech met with wide acclaim. She continued her speaking engagements and organizing activities for the next ten years, until the start of the Civil War when most of the women put their activities on hold to assist in the war effort.

Henry Blackwell c. 1850, Blackwell Family Paper at the Library of Congress (source)

Henry Blackwell c. 1850, Blackwell Family Paper at the Library of Congress (source)

Like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy had decided early in her life that she didn’t want to submit herself to the constraints of marriage. Unlike Anthony, she changed her mind. Henry Blackwell noticed Lucy during one of her speeches. He was immediately smitten and began to woo her, a process which took several years. If anyone could have won Lucy over it was Henry. He was raised in a family which strongly supported both the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. His one brother Samuel Blackwell had married Antoinette Brown, Lucy’s friend, who had become a minister as well as a prominent abolitionist and suffragist in her own right, and Henry’s five sisters had all opted to remain single and pursue careers of their own, the most prominent being Elizabeth Blackwell the first female doctor in the United States. Lucy and Henry were married in 1855. As part of the ceremony they read a “Marriage Protest” where they protested the laws which gave a husband control over a wife’s person and sole control and guardianship of the children. Needless to say the word “obey” was left out of the ceremony. Lucy continued her career as a speaker and continued to use her maiden name. She did take time off the lecture circuit when she gave birth to Alice Stone Blackwell in 1857 and throughout the years of the war.

Lucy with her daughter Alice, Library of Congress (source)

Lucy with her daughter Alice, Library of Congress (source)

After the war, the differences between some of the primary leaders within the women’s movement began to emerge. The issues are multi-faceted and I may write a future post on them, but for now, there was a split within the movement in 1869. The argument arose primarily over whether or not to fight for suffrage for black men and women at the same time within one amendment, or to work toward the vote for all men and once that was achieved return to the issue of suffrage for women. The 15th Amendment had passed in Congress in February ensuring that no citizen could be denied the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Stanton was incensed that it didn’t include the word sex and resorted to racist language that alienated many in the group. She refused to support ratification whereas the majority wanted to support ratification and propose an additional amendment for the suffrage of women. The final result was Stanton and Anthony’s withdrawal and formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Lucy Stone responded by creating another organization – the American Woman Suffrage Association.

Over the next 20 years Lucy and the AWSA continued to work for women’s suffrage focusing primarily on individual states. In 1870, she founded the Woman’s Journal, a newspaper that she would write for and publish for the rest of her life. At some point she realized that she was not going to see the women’s vote become a reality in her lifetime, but she had raised Alice to have the same values and knew that she would carry on the fight. She also spent time with Carrie Chapman Catt for the same purpose, preparing her to take up the mantle.

In 1890, the NWSA and the AWSA were finally reconciled, and in 1892, Lucy spoke before the House Judiciary Committee with Stanton and Anthony in support of women’s suffrage. Her last speech was in 1893 at the World’s Congress of Representative Women in Chicago where women from over 27 countries spoke to an audience of over 150,000 people in favor of women’s rights. She died later that year.

When Stanton and Anthony began their History of Woman Suffrage, Lucy was still in disagreement with them and chose not to send a biographical sketch for inclusion. For this reason she is not represented to the degree that she probably should be. But in recent years, her tremendous contributions to the advancement of women’s rights have received more attention. She was truly one of the founders of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton  et. al. (6 volume work)
Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists
by Jean H. Baker
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902)
Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary – Blazing the Trail for Women

Mary Ann Shadd, National Archives of Canada (source)

Mary Ann Shadd, National Archives of Canada (source)

Not very many people accomplish as much as Mary Ann Shadd Cary did in her life, much less blaze a trail to do it. She has many “firsts” to her credit: first African American woman publisher in North America, first woman publisher in Canada, first woman to enroll in Howard University, first woman to graduate from Howard with a law degree (sort of, more to come) and only the second African American woman to practice law in the United States, at 60 years old no less! She was even commissioned by the governor of Indiana to recruit black soldiers to the Union army, the only woman to hold this position.

Mary Ann Shadd was born free in Delaware on October 9, 1823, to Abraham and Harriet Parnell Shadd, the oldest of their 13 children. Her father was a prosperous boot manufacturer and her mother a woman who wanted her children to be educated. Delaware was a slave state and it was illegal to educate black children, so when Mary was 10, the family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania where she enrolled in a Quaker school. After graduating at 16, Mary began a career in teaching. For ten years, she taught in schools in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and amazingly returned to Wilmington Delaware to open a school for black children. It was partly through her efforts that Wilmington began to make provisions for educating free black children in 1844.

During her childhood, her parents were actively involved with many prominent abolitionists. In the 1830s and 40s, her father helped lead a series of conventions led by black leaders, and when the time came they were also involved in the Underground Railroad. This was risky enough, but when the Fugitive Slave Law passed in 1850, it became even more dangerous. Even the northern non-slave states were no longer safe, and, it wasn’t only escaped slaves who were at risk. Freed slaves and free-born blacks were at risk as well. In a time where civil rights were non-existent for African-Americans, the law wasn’t much help, so many free blacks as well as escaped slaves moved to the safety of Canada. Mary Ann Shadd was one of these.

In 1851, Mary and one of her brothers moved to Windsor, Ontario, after meeting Henry Bibb and his wife at the Convention of Colored Freeman in Toronto. In Windsor, she opened a school for fugitive slaves with assistance from the American Missionary Association and eventually brought the rest of her family to join them. Mary became active in the community and began to write and promote Canada to other blacks in the United States, both slave and free. Her first published pamphlet was Notes on Canada West, and it described the virtues of Canadian living. Canada had abolished slavery in 1833 and had no agreement with the United States to extradite escaped slaves. In her book Homespun Heroines, Hallie Brown recounts an incident where a young boy, pursued by slave hunters, was captured and about to be carried off when Mary “tore the boy from the slave hunters, ran to the court-house and had the bell rung so violently that the whole town was soon aroused. Mrs. Cary with her commanding form, piercing eyes, and stirring voice soon had the people as indignant as herself–denouncing in no uncertain terms the outrage perpetrated under the British flag and demanded that these man-hunters be driven from their midst.”

She definitely was not shy. In fact, she had substantial disagreements with some of the other residents of Windsor, in particular Henry Bibb, the publisher of a newspaper called The Voice of the Fugitive. When Mary moved to Windsor, she established a racially integrated school. She believed that blacks must fight for equality and integration into society, and that self-segregation would hinder the fight. Not everyone agreed, and she came under attack by Henry Bibb in his newspaper. Rather than just defending herself, she started her own newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. She had the help of Samuel Ringgold Ward, a newspaper man in his own right, who agreed to be the editor, but it seems likely that he was editor primarily in name only and that Mary was the driving force and primary writer and editor for the paper. The Provincial Freeman gave Mary a way to get her message out about the advantages of moving to Canada, but also about other causes important to her such as women’s rights.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary House in Washington DC (source)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary House in Washington DC (source)

Financing was difficult, and they published the paper off and on between 1853 and 1859. Mary spent a good deal of time traveling back in the United States, distributing her pamphlets, extolling the virtues of Canada, and raising money to keep the paper going. This was a challenge, because in 1856 she married Thomas Cary. Thomas was a barber with three children, but it seemed to work well for them even though she was often away. She and Thomas were both still very involved in the abolitionist cause and in 1858 attended John Brown’s Constitutional Convention. They were friends with Osborne Perry Anderson, the only surviving African-American member of the raiding party, and Mary later helped him prepare his memoir, A Voice From Harper’s Ferry, for publication in 1861.

Mary and Thomas had two children Sarah and Linton, but Thomas died while Mary was pregnant with Linton and she found herself in a position of having to support two young children and three teenagers. She continued teaching, but wanting to be of service to the war effort, she returned to the United States. In 1863, President Lincoln called for volunteers and Mary as always wanted to be of service, so she was commissioned by Levi P. Morton, the governor of Indiana, to recruit black soldiers for the Union army.

At the end of the war, Mary had a decision to make. Although she considered life in Canada a good option, she decided to remain in the United States to help in the assimilation of the newly freed slaves. A strong believer in self-determination, and believing in the importance of education for this purpose, she obtained a US teacher’s certificate and relocated in 1868 to Washington, D. C. She eventually became a principal in the D.C. public schools and enrolled in Howard University.

There seem to be different accounts of her graduation and acceptance to the District of Columbia Bar, one stating that she was the first black woman to become a lawyer in the US and others say she was the second. Mary Ann Shadd Cary is on the roles of the senior class of 1870 at Howard; however, it appears that she was refused her law degree because she was a woman. In the meantime, Charlotte E. Ray graduated in 1872 and was admitted to the bar in Washington D.C. under the name C. E. Ray. (I’m sure the assumption was that C. E. Ray was a man!) So Charlotte Ray became the first black woman lawyer in the US and Mary was awarded her law degree in 1883.

Mary was a strong believer in self-determination whether black or white, male or female. So while her primary work was as an abolitionist and in education, she was also involved in the suffrage movement. During her years in Washington D. C. she continued writing, joined the National Woman Suffrage Association, working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. She also founded the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise in 1880 to work toward equal rights for women.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary continued to speak and write as long as she was able. She died on June 5, 1893, having blazed a trail for women both black and white. As a teacher, writer, publisher, speaker, in the cause of abolition and equal rights for women she was truly an amazing woman!

Mary Anne Shadd Cary: Abolitionist by Adrienne Shadd
Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction ed. Hallie O. Brown

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...