Mary Morris Burnett Talbert (b. 1866—d. 1923)

Mary Morris Burnett Talbert (b. 1866—d. 1923)

During her life, Talbert was called “the most famous black woman in America.” Mary Morris Burnet Talbert was born in Orlin Ohio in 1866. She attended Oberlin College, and following graduation, taught at Bethel University teaching history, mathematics, Latin, science, and geography. She later was appointed as vice-principal of Union High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, an amazing achievement for a woman at that time. In 1887, she and her husband, William Herbert Talbert, moved to Buffalo, New York. While in Buffalo, Talbert was quite politically active— she became involved with the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, she was active in anti-lynching and anti-racism work as well as work supporting women’s suffrage. In 1899, she became a charter member of the Phyllis Wheatley Club, which was an affiliate of the National Association for Colored Women, of which she became president in 1916. She was also a founding member of the Empire State Federation of Colored Women, and in 1920 was the first African American delegate for the International Council of Women at the 5th congress in Norway where she led lectures on the intersection of race and women’s rights. Other international work included her work as a Red Cross nurse during World War I in France where she offered classes to African American soldiers and was a member of the Women’s Committee on International Relations which helped to select female nominees for positions in the League of Nations. She is also known for her challenge of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Women’s Party to include the participation of African American women.

Additional Sources:

National Women’s Hall of Fame Short Biography:

History of Buffalo Short Biography:

Suffragist Memorial Short Biography:

Iowa State University Archives of Women’s Political Communication Short Biography:

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