Mary Ann Shadd Cary (b. 1823 – d. 1893)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (b. 1823 – d. 1893)

Born in 1823 in Delaware, Cary is best known as an activist, writer, teacher, and lawyer. Cary’s parents were abolitionists and provided refuge to fugitive slaves seeking freedom along the Underground Railroad.  After finishing her schooling – Cary became a teacher and taught black students in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Eventually, Cary moved to Ontario Canada, married, and opened an integrated school. While in Canada she founded the nation’s first antislavery newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, in 1853.  She also published several pamphlets that encouraged blacks in the U.S to emigrate to Canada. She often lectured in both the United States and Canada to advocate for her paper, abolition, and to raise funds to help fugitive slaves. After the start of the Civil War, Cary moved back to the United States and helped to recruit soldiers for the Union. Following the war, she enrolled at Howard University Law School and graduated in 1870. She is considered one of the first black female lawyers in the U.S although not much is known about her life as a lawyer. Outside of her studies and job as an educator, she wrote for the black newspaper The New National Era and founded the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association. She was also a leader in the fight for women’s suffrage. Cary was a member of the National Suffrage Association, speaking at the NWSA’s 1874 convention and even advocated for both black men and women’s right to vote in front of the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

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