Mary Ann Shadd, Black lawyer, suffragist, abolitionist, teacher, and editor

Mary Ann Shadd
Thu, 1823-10-09

*On this date in 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She was a Black educator and administrator.

The eldest of 13 children of free Black parents, she received an education from the Pennsylvania Quakers. Cary devoted the first part of her life to abolition, working with fugitive slaves, and becoming the first African-American woman in North America to edit a weekly newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, devoted to displaced Americans living in Canada. She then became a teacher, establishing or teaching in schools for Negroes in Wilmington; West Chester, PA; New York; Morristown, NJ; and Canada. She was also the first woman to speak at a national African American convention.

During the Civil War, Cary helped recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army. In Washington, D.C., she established a school for Black children. She embarked on her second career, attending Howard University Law School and became the first Black female lawyer in the United States when she graduated in 1870.

She fought alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women's suffrage, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. As a lawyer, she worked for the right to vote and was one of the few women to receive the right to vote in federal elections. She organized the Colored Women's Progressive Franchise in 1880, which was dedicated to women's rights.

As an educator, abolitionist, editor, attorney, and feminist, she dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for everyone black and white, female and male.

The Face of Our Past:
Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present
Edited by Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin
Copyright1999, Indiana University Press
ISBN 0-253-336535-X

To Become a Lawyer

Person / name: 

Shadd, Mary Ann